Purgatory - Summary | The Heritage of Words

William Butler Yeats

Purgatory - Summary | The Heritage of Words


The boy and his father walk on the moonlight night; they are near a ruined house. Pointing towards the house, the old man describes the past of it. The house used to be occupied by his mother and her husband. The mother of the old man had married the groom of the stable as soon as she met him. The man later turned out to be a drunkard and gambler. Due to drinking and gambling, he emptied everything he had. The mother died while giving birth to him.

The father continued his misdeed, which at last resulted in the complete destruction of the house. Because of fear-the fear of his son becoming greater than him, he didn’t send him to school. When he was sixteen, his father burnt down the house. This situation created anger in him. As a result, the old man killed his father with a knife. The OLD MAN then became a peddler. The old man tells his bastard son that the night is the anniversary of mother’s wedding. As he finishes telling his son about the past, a shadow appears to which the man can only see. The shadow is of his dead mother.

A little later her husband also appears, and they both proceed towards the room. The old man objects to the way they go inside. After the incident is over the boy talks about the property he has acquired. The bastard son demands for his share in the property of his father, which is denied by him. It arises anger in him. As a result, he takes moneybag from the Old man. A quarrel starts between them; the boy gets killed at last with the knife of the old man. The old man, after it, addresses his mother and claims that he has ended the consequences. He hopes that the soul of the mother would be purified.

Important Questions :

1. In the short drama Purgatory, the writer WB Yeats expresses the following things:
Ans: The crime of the father will be repeated by his son to an endless cycle of violence. Living beings can render help to the departed soul which suffers in purgatory. Living beings have to suffer the consequences of the sin committed by the dead while alive.

2. What is the theme of purgatory?
Ans: Purgatory is a story of remorseful of a departed soul that committed mistakes on itself while being alive. In order to purify itself, it is undergoing suffering in purgatory. It is also concerned with the living beings who suffer the consequences of the sin committed by the dead people while alive and the help rendered by the living beings to get the soul released from purgatory.

3. What is the motive (aim) in murdering his son by the old man?
Ans: The old man believes that by murdering his son, he has stopped the boy to have a son of his own who would kill him after attaining 16 years of age, thereby breaking the endless cycle of violence. He also believes that by killing his son, he helps his mother’s soul to get released from purgatory.

Questions for Practice :

  1. Do you think Yeast believed in life after death?
  2. Explain how Purgatory explores the relation of human life to supernatural forces.
  3. What is the Old Man’s motive in murdering the Boy?

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