The Mundy family consists of five unmarried sisters Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rosie and Christina . They live in a cottage outside the town of Ballybeg ( Donegal) and are supported by Kate ( a school teacher).
She’s the only one of the family with a job that pays significantly. Agnes and Rose are the Etsy entrepreneurs of their day, knitting gloves that they sell in town, which brings in enough housekeeping for Maggie and Christina to look after the house and buy food for the family. Including Michael (Christina’s seven year old son).
Jack Mundy upon the start of the play has recently returned home, He spent twenty five years as a missionary in Uganda, but contracted malaria.
He struggles regularly to remember his sisters’ names. He strayed away from his strict Catholic routes as he’s rumoured to have “went native”, which is the reason why he was forced to return to Ireland.
Michael’s father Gerry who is Welsh is the only non Irish member of the family . He works as a traveling salesman and sells gramophones.
The sisters aren’t happy with their lives. All hoped for love but none have it.
None are married and all are also financially strained which is a big stress factor for the family.
The all fondly admire a love that passed, and seems hurt that it never turned out the way they imagined.
Gerry proposes to Christina despite him still not be around. He becomes tired of selling gramophones . So decides that the best way to find it is by joining the International Brigade and going to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Kate is doesn’t like this as she’s a devout Catholic, she disapproves of the “Godless forces” that he will be fighting with because Franco(the Spanish dictator), will be fighting, and has the backing of the Catholic church.
The opening of a large knitwear factory in town kills off the home made gloves industry. Kate loses her job, because there are not enough children attending the local school to justify keeping more than one teacher.
Kate doubts this reasoning and privately blames her brother Jack’s dubious behaviour. She feels his actions have tainted her by association in the eyes of the church, who run the little school.
Michael, in his role as the adult narrator, tells us that this is the summer in which things are forever changed, and that the existence they have enjoyed for all these years comes to an end.
Dancing At Lughnasa
It is 1936 and harvest time in County Donegal. In a house just outside the village of Ballybeg live the five Mundy sisters, barely making ends meet, their ages ranging from twenty-six up to forty. The two male members of the household are brother Jack, a missionary priest, repatriated from Africa by his superiors after 25 years, and the seven-year-old child of the youngest sister.
In depicting two days in the life of this menage, Brian Friel evokes not simply the interior landscape of a group of human beings trapped in their domestic situation, but the wider landscape, interior and exterior, Christian and pagan, of which they are a part.