Stream of Consciousness

The fragmented nature of some of the dialogue - in particular that of Gar Private - shows Gar’s confused state of mind as he recalls the past, imagines the future and deliberates over whether he is making the correct choice.

The disjointed sentences, exclamation marks, dashes, ellipses and non-sequiturs in Private’s monologues show the reality of the thinking process. They also convey what Gar is going through.

While the real characters sit on stage in silence – this internal aspect of Gar’s personality is in turmoil.


Songs and ballads feature in the play, many of which reinforce key themes and ideas. The types of music change between music hall songs such as Give the Woman in the Bed more Porter, the classical Mendelssohn violin concerto and the haunting folk song, She Moved Through the Fair.

They all create different moods, highlighting the very changeable nature of Gar’s moods throughout the play. He moves from being ostensibly excited in the opening scene to questioning why he is going at all in the closing scene.

Poetic refrain

Gar repeatedly recites the opening lines from Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, a piece of writing critiquing the French Revolution that was criticised for idealising pre-Revolutionary France and the governing royal family.

Perhaps this is a piece of writing that he remembers from studying “Arts” for “one year at University College”, and so the repetition of it throughout the play may highlight his regret at not pursuing his studies.

On the other hand, Friel may have intended to show this as another form of escape for Gar as he seems to repeat these lines to distract himself from thoughts and feelings he wants to avoid.

Perhaps - considering the piece of writing he is quoting - Friel also uses this to remind us of how Gar may be idealising the past - for example in his memories of Kate Doogan or the boys.


The title of the play combines the lyrics of the song California, Here I Come by Al Jolson and the name of the American city, Philadelphia, that Gar is emigrating too.

Although the exclamation mark in the title suggests enthusiasm and excitement at the impending journey, the original song is in fact about missing one’s home.

Lyrics such as “California, I’ve been blue / Since I’ve been away from you” and “California, here I come/ Right back where I started from” show a person longing to go back to where they came from.

Perhaps Friel is using the title ironically to portray Gar’s ambivalent attitude towards emigration.

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