Characters (1-10):

  • G. Grantley Dixon--American journalist, supposedly the author of a book that is source material.
  • Captain Josias Lockwood--Master of the vessel; Quaker; keeper of the ship's log.
  • Thomas David Nelson Merridith, Lord Kingscourt; noble class, from Galway, landowner who moved to London, husband of Laura and father of two boys; also called "The Victim."
  • Mary Duane--childhood friend of David Merridith; nanny of Merridith boys, Famine widow.
  • Surgeon Mangan--passenger and doctor who tends to ill on the ship.
  • The Maharajah--mysterious passenger on the ship.
  • Pius Mulvey--poor passenger from steerage who wanders the deck by night, also called "The Ghost" and "The Monster."

In Flashbacks:
  • Husband of Mary Duane
  • Lord Merridith (David's father)
  • Lady Verity Merridith
  • Mary Duane's mother--David's nanny
  • William Swales--pseudonym for Pius Mulvey, inscribed inside Bible (but who was he??)

Dawn Duncan, Concordia:

Karen Babine, UNL:
Questions? Email me at

  • The epigraphs set up the impression that there is no one way to tell this story (English, Irish, English, Irish)—and it ends with James Connolly, executed for his role in the Easter Rising, which places the story in a context that will eventually lead to the hope of independence.
  • The fake title page: “G. Grantley Dixon” himself sets up an Anglo name (Grantley) and an Irish name (Dixon)—again complicating the perspective of the story. And the description at the bottom of the page sets up a questioning about a reliable narrator and what is “true.”

  • How many ways does O'Connor manipulate the landscape of the page? For the writers, how does he create this landscape of text? What are the features? For the readers, what is the effect of it?
  • Preface: How is the setting crafted through character, the movement and action of a character through a landscape, a landscape that is also moving? How does how O'Connor crafts both the character and the setting mirror the changing perspectives and the readers' understanding of those characters? And what does it mean that the movement is of a crippled character and a coffin ship? How does O'Connor set up the idea that who you are cannot be separated from where you come from?
  • Horizontal and vertical planes: Those moments where the horizontal, forward movement of the narrative meets with the vertical plane of higher meaning, creating a moment of deep truth. (See the top of page xviii.)

Chapter 1:
  • POV switch, also a form switch. What does it do to the reader to leave Dixon's POV and the profile of The Ghost and move into the largely objective form of the captain's log?
  • How does this form work a different perspective on place? What's happening in this log?

Chapter 2:
  • Another POV switch, another narrative form.
  • This is also the first real dialogue we get between the characters. If dialogue is something characters do to each other, if the narrative after the dialogue is indelibly shifted because of the dialogue, what is going on in the dialogue?
  • How do we describe Merridith's voice? How is it constructed? What makes him sound different from the other characters?

Chapter 3:
  • Another chapter, another POV, another form. What purpose does this form serve that could not be delivered by any other form? How many different forms has this narrative taken already? What is the purpose of the form? Why not just shift POV in a traditional narrative?
  • What do you make of the juxtaposition of forms inside the chapter (between the newspaper account and the advertisement)--why does O'Connor do this?
  • At the end of this chapter, what do we know and what do we know about these characters? How do we know it? What can we learn from O'Connor as writers?

Chapter 4: “The Hunger”
  • Motivations: What do these characters want?
  • What is the role of the senses in these chapters so far?
  • What do you make of the chapter titles?
  • Sentencing: the role of semicolons, like the bars that separate classes? Can see through, connected, but separated?

Chapter 5: “The Ordinary Passengers”
  • How is the voice of the captain constructed?
  • What is the purpose of this chapter?

Chapter 6: “The Visions at Delphi”
  • Another chapter, another POV, another form.
  • What function does this letter serve in the overall narrative?
  • Silencing? What cannot be written (39).
  • Use of the asides? The husband only known by his initial?

Chapter 7: “The Subject”
  • The first female perspective we get.
  • What do you make of the first paragraph?
  • Use of the color grey in the chapter? What is the effect—and how is it constructed?
  • Use of dialogue? What does it tell us about each of the characters that couldn’t be delivered any other way?
  • What is the role of silence in this chapter? Sentencing, punctuation (45). How is silence constructed on the page?
    • Language: Irish-English
    • Naming
    • Asides
    • Voice: how does the narrative move from Mary’s adult voice to her child voice? What changes?

Chapter 8: “The Thing Not Said”
  • The role of naming: what is named, what is not named? Link to identity—who are you?
  • Movement between Irish and English
  • Silencing: who or what is being silenced and who is doing the silencing? And how is that constructed on the page?

Chapter 9: The Map of Ireland
  • What’s the relationship between bodies, landscape, plants, geography, morality and sex?
    • Coitus interruptus as geography?
    • Chapter title: what gets written; who has the power to make the map?
    • Several references to rules throughout these chapters: who makes the rules, who breaks them, who decides what is worthy of rules?
    • P. 68 and excellent example of weather playing an active role in the plot.

Chapter 10: The Angels
  • The return of Captain Lockwood’s ship’s log—the function of placing the ship in time and space in the front material.
  • What contributes to the movement of the plot (and the promise of murder most foul)?
  • What contributes to the development of Mulvey’s character as well as the captain’s?
  • Think about the intersection of horizontal and vertical lines of the narrative on page 83, with the discussion of Greenwich Mean Time.