The structure of a text refers to the way in which events are organised inside the play as a whole. Philadelphia, Here I Come! does not have a plot as such, the action is all in one evening in the present time and takes place over a few hours.
On his last night in Ireland a series of visitations - some real and some in his imagination - force Gar to confront the choices he has made. The structure is linear, but because many of the events we are shown happened previous to this evening Friel uses the flashback device.
The action therefore jumps back and forth as we see events from the past in flashback. This emphasises the importance of the past to what is happening now. It also helps to explain the lead up to Gar’s decision to emigrate.
However, the comedic fantasies of Private as he imagines Gar as a company president and looks forward to the promises of America means that both the past and the future become important on this night.
The events of the play are organised into three episodes. There is an interval at the end of Episodes I and II. Episode III is divided into two parts. This structure has various different effects. Firstly, it means that tension is built up as the evening goes on.
Even though the action is over a short time the intervals keep the audience on edge, wondering if Gar will go or not. It also means that as the tension rises the pace of the play quickens.
As we get nearer the end of the play it puts pressure on Gar to communicate properly with his father on what will be their last night together.
The conclusion of each episode is also important. Episode I ends on a nostalgic note, with both Public and Private singing Philadelphia, Here I Come as Gar ostensibly looks forward to his departure.
This hides the fact that the singing is an avoidance tactic to escape his thoughts of Kate Doogan and his mother.
Episode II ends with thoughts of Kate Doogan again. But this time there is more tension in Gar’s desperate plea - shouted to himself but addressing S.B. - to “Say something, father!”
Episode III Part One concludes on an apparently calmer note as the “slow curtain” closes on S.B. and the Canon’s draughts game. But the conversation they are having about whether there’s "hope” for S.B. seems to have a double meaning.
When the Canon says “You’re not too late yet” we immediately link this to the time running out for S.B. to communicate with his only son.
Therefore, the episodes are structured to gradually build up a sense of urgency as we hope that the two men will reach out to each other before it is too late.