The early 1900's were a time of change for most Irish folk. Many of them were immigrating over to America in search of a better life, but for many of the immigrants, there was a lingering feeling of loss. Many Irish-Americans felt that their heritage was on the brink of extinction since those few who could remember their homeland were slowly perishing as the days went on. Their cultural heritage gained more and more importance after it started to fade from the memories of all with Irish blood. This cultural aspect is portrayed in the character Margaret O'Brien, the elderly woman lying on her deathbed in the hospital. She too is worried about the fading memories, for there's "nobody but me left to remember, and soon there'll not even be that" (16). All of her friends come to pay their last respects, but end up leaving troubled for they don't understand her murmuring dilemma. Margaret never explains her predicament to her new American friends for they are all "outside the magic circle of comprehension" (17), that is until her niece Anna shows up and vows to remember all events of Margaret's past. Finally, the old lady could die peacefully knowing that her heritage remains in the mind of her kin, just as every Irish immigrant had probably wished for.
The culture issue is the main, dominating subject of the story, but that isn't to say it drives the entire story. In the beginnings of