Domestic obsession

Throughout the play, Nora is concerned about keeping her house looking clean and orderly. She is so wrapped up in domestic matters that, at times, she talks aloud to herself about these concerns while other conversations are going on.

At the start of the play she is worried about her washing machine overflowing: All my lino’s curled after the last time and she keeps coming back to this when the conversation has moved on.

Nora’s plan is to renovate her front room with a 15-yard remnant of peach coloured polyester material, That’ll be my front room just a wee dream again. If Cassie’s dream is to escape her environment, Nora’s is to redesign her own private surroundings. She tries to shut out the bigger picture and focus on creating her own world which she can have control over.

When her material is destroyed she laments its loss, Where will I ever find a colour like that again? but simply starts to create a similar dream: I’m just going to go up the town and buy a piece of what I want.

Nora’s approach to life is summed up at the end of scene two:

Oh I could say plenty I could... But will you tell me what the use is in talking? I’ve a man to see about 15-yards of pale peach polyester mix. That’s what I’m doing.

For her, many issues in life are insoluble, but domestic details are manageable.

Similarly, when Nora tells stories of previous incidents during the Troubles she always brings them down to her own domestic level. When soldiers go through her garden her response is Will you look at what those great boots are doing to my nasturtiums!

Another of Nora’s stories (told in the club) is about a neighbour whose life is full of problems.

Oh Nora, she says, I’m living in hell . . .
Well, I says, If this is hell it could do with a lick of paint.

Typically, Nora’s answer to the woman’s predicament is that she should take refuge in redecoration.

Equally important to Nora is the idea of keeping up appearances. When Cassie is dancing at the club, Nora says: We can’t leave her on her own there, performing for the whole town!

Nora and her family

One reason why Nora and Cassie argue is that Cassie constantly complains whereas Nora has learned to accept life as it is. Her response to Cassie’s desire to leave is that It seems to me there’s not a place in the world that is different.

When Cassie complains about her husband Joe, Nora tells her

I don’t know what you thought marriage would be, but you should’ve learned by your age.

Cassie shows she understands her mother’s character when she says Mummy’s heart is made of steel. She had to grow it that way.

However, in spite of her fatalistic attitude, Nora does not fully face up to truth. She will not admit that her son Martin fathered an illegitimate child.