Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be able to teach stories from The Untilled Field. They are such good stories! This time around I was struck by how the ending to “Some Parishioners” subtly echoes the ending to Esther Waters. In Esther Waters, Mrs. Barfield’s son briefly returns to Woodview and becomes angry with his mother for hosting religious services at their (his) house. But seeing his mother’s face as she describes the importance of prayer, he relents. Even if he thinks miracles no longer happen, there’s something to his mother’s religious feeling that matters. “Some Parishioners” ends with the priest and a young man reflecting on Biddy’s religious visions:
“I suppose even miracles are inconvenient at times, Father Maguire. Be patient with her, let her enjoy her happiness.”
And the two men stood looking at her, trying vainly to imagine what her happiness might be” (115).
Moore, the man who, in the words of one Victorian reviewer, “described what should be left undescribed,” also documents what he cannot capture: belief, maybe even happiness, that can only every be an absent presence in the pages of new realism.