Plot

With a mother figure, spinster and a life-giver, Maria, a housemaid at a Protestant charity, proudly reviews her preparation for Halloween festivities at her workplace. Maria nursed Joe and Alphy, when they were young. As they break-up at home, they helped Maria get her present job. By the time festivities arrive, Maria distributes the bread, called barmbrack, and tea to her companion. Afterwards, Maria prepares for her journey to Joe’s home, admiring her appearance in the mirror before leaving her room. On her way to Joe’s, Maria moving through the crowded streets so as to buy cakes for the children and a special plum cake for Joe and his wife. She gets on a crowded tram and sits next to a “colonel-looking gentleman” who kindly makes room for her. They chat happily, and they friendly say goodbye to each other. At Joe’s home, as she wants to give presents to children, Joe and his wife, she cannot find the presents. The Donnellys suggest that she probably left it on the tram, which makes Maria feels embarrassed. Joe consoles Maria by telling her stories about his office and offering nuts and wine. Afterwards, they start traditional Halloween games. Two girls from the house next door help the children to arrange a table of saucers filled with different objects and lead a blindfolded Maria over to them. Maria touches the saucer with a mound of wet clay on it, which represents early death in games. Joe’s wife reproves children for clay should not be an option given its bad omen. Maria reaches again and touches a prayer book, forecasting a pious life in a convent. The festivities continue happily until Joe asks Maria to sing “I Dreamt that I Dwelt” for the family. Maria sings the first stanza twice, but no one points out her mistake. Joe is visibly moved to tears and asks his wife where the corkscrew is.

      The theme of this story is death and the ‘clay’ is symbol of Maria’s personality characteristic. First, she is trodden by her environment because everybody treat her hardly. However, Maria neglects those ironies and views it as nothing that really a kind of self-deception. In her opinions, everyone treat her friendly and nice. For example, as she goes to buy a plumcake, the seller asked her if she wants to buy a wedding-cake. In addition, she considers that Joe’s wife was so nice to her; nevertheless, in fact, Joe’s wife laugh at her whose must go to convent. Secondly, Maria is lives like a death person as if a person who without a soul. She is a spiritual death person who fills with dissatisfaction, frustration and disappointment. Like her great expectation, marriage, she never reaches it. Thirdly, she is just similar to clay which is easy to create and without self-conscious.

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