Double Readings and Double Rewritings. Alternative Texts in Mary O'Donnell's Remake of Mary Lavin's "The Widow's Son"


  • Giovanna Tallone



Mary O’Donnell’s short story “The Story of Maria’s Son”, from her collection Storm over Belfast (2008), consciously and openly rewrites Mary Lavin’s story “The Widow’s Son” in the urban setting of contemporary Ireland. O’Donnell follows the steps of a significant figure among Irish women writers and plays with the plot of her source text in a process of expansion, providing background information to weave a realistic pattern of suburban life. However, O’Donnell also engages with the structure, tone and narrative modes of the Lavin original and reproduces the pattern of Lavin’s story in her deliberate use of a double ending, or of alternative endings, thus questioning narrative authority. The purpose of this paper is to analyse Mary O’Donnell’s “The Story of Maria’s Son”, vis-à-vis Lavin’s “The Widow’s Son”, shedding light on the way both texts elaborate conflicting endings and taking into account the variety of narrative voices in both stories. If on the level of plot the tragedy of the loss of the son is generated by a mother-son conflict, on the level of discourse and structure O’Donnell develops the conflicting double endings into a postmodern reflection on the construction of texts.

Keywords: rereading; rewriting; alternative ending; Mary O’Donnell; Mary Lavin.

Author Biography

  • Giovanna Tallone
    Giovanna Tallone is a graduate in Modern Languages from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, and holds a PhD in English Studies from the University of Florence. She is an EFL teacher in secondary school and independent researcher, and has presented papers and published essays and critical reviews on Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Mary Lavin, Clare Boylan, Mary O’Donnell, Lady Augusta Gregory, Brian Friel, Dermot Bolger and James Stephens. Her main research interests include Irish women writers, contemporary Irish drama, and the remakes of Old Irish legends.




How to Cite

Tallone, G. (2019). Double Readings and Double Rewritings. Alternative Texts in Mary O’Donnell’s Remake of Mary Lavin’s "The Widow’s Son". ABEI Journal, 20(2), 41-52.