Poor People


This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Poor People” by Liam O'Flaherty. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Excerpt from the study guide:

Here, the narrator explains that Patrick is extremely poor and he must work even though he is still recovering from an illness so that he and his family do not starve. The narrator also shows Patrick’s feelings regarding his wife or his dying son: “his heart filled with anger against the world. A salt lump came up his throat, choking him. God! God! Why could he not rend and break and destroy everything, instead of being tied down like this by poverty”.

At the same time, because the narrator is limited to Patrick’s perspective, this means that readers only know as much as Patrick does. When Patrick returns home at noon, readers do not know why villagers are gathering at Patrick’s house. They only figure out that Patrick’s son has died when Patrick does as well: “he saw several neighbour women approaching his door, his heart stopped beating. He jumped off his horse in the yard and ran to the door crying: What's this? What's this?” This adds tension and drama to the climax of the story, which only makes the ending more tragic. 

There are times when the narrator makes personal comments or asides about the events. For example, when Patrick tells a neighbor that his son will quite likely die soon and the neighbor offers his sympathies, the narrator remarks: “The poor pity the hardships of the poor.” Similarly, when mentioning the relationship between Patrick and Brigid, the narrator comments that: “When two people are married, there is nothing to hide."

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Poor People

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