Split character

Brian Friel uses an experimental dramatic technique in the play. He creates Gar Private - who can’t be heard by the other characters - to allow us access into Gar’s thoughts and feelings. The only one who hears Private is Gar Public, who never looks at him.

The use of internal monologue allows us into Gar’s private thoughts. Here sentences are sometimes reduced to fragments, jumping from one thing to another and left unfinished as our own thoughts often are, adding to the realistic quality of the drama.

Through this innovative dramatic device Friel explores the complex contradictions of personality and the ‘I’ we show to and hide from other people.


Friel’s use of dialogue changes depending on character and situation. The boys and - at times - Gar speak in Donegal vernacular. This creates realism as it is the speech pattern we would associate with young men living in this rural area.

Other characters - such as Senator Doogan and Master Boyle - speak the Standard English of educated men.

Gar Private’s language is quite poetic at times, especially when he evokes memories of or mentions his mother. When he reminisces about his time with the boys he uses the imagery of alchemy, “just the memory; and even now, even so soon, it is being distilled of all its coarseness; and what’s left is going to be precious, precious gold …”

We see vivid description in his childhood memory of his father, ‘just the two of us fishing on a lake on a showery day – and young as I was I felt, I knew, that this was precious, and your hat was soft on the top of my ears – I can feel it – and I shrank down into your coat – and then, then for no reason at all except that you were happy too, you began to sing”.

This description is rich in sensory detail, showing the importance of this memory to Gar as he prepares to go.


Private’s monologues obviously show the internal monologue of Gar, but at times Friel also uses monologues to show Madge’s feelings. Her final monologue is important as we see how she too will miss Gar.

This monologue also contributes to the tragedy in the play as she concludes by surmising “And when he’s [Gar] the age the boss is now, he’ll turn out just the same. And although I won’t be here to see it, you’ll find that he’s learned nothin’ in-between times.”

Her prediction of the cycle of men who are frightened of showing emotion leaves us with little hope for change at the end of the play.