Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
The Quiet Man (1952)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The next morning before some townsfolk arrive, she audaciously begs that he not embarrass her and reveal that they have slept apart and not consummated their marriage vows: "Sean...don't be shamin' me, please, in front of your friends." He allows her to save face.

Their friends have brought a "belated wedding present" - her furniture (including her spinnet) after persuading Mary Kate's brother to change his mind about everything but the monetary part of the dowry. She is embarrassed when they deposit a baby's wooden rocking cradle at her feet: "It was my mother's and, and my mother's mothers before." Sean still disputes her - with his modern upbringing. He cannot comprehend the country traditions she fiercely holds to, and why she wants the money so desperately. He misinterprets her obedience to custom as avarice:

Sean: Well, let him keep it.
Mary Kate: Keep my fortune?
Sean: Sure, you've got your tables and chairs about ya. What do we care about his money?
Mary Kate: My money!
Sean: Well, let him have it if it means that much to him....
Mary Kate: What manner of man is it that I have married?

When Michaeleen brings the crib into their bedroom and finds the broken bed smashed to the floor, he imagines their tempestuous wedding night with the comic exclamation:

Impetuous! Homeric!

In their cottage home, a prominent display of red roses in a bowl graces the center of their dining room table. To renew the traditions (and memory) of his mother, Sean digs in the cottage's green yard and plants roses to fulfill his romantic obsession. As he cultivates the land as a gentleman farmer, he scoffs at the plentiful numbers of rocks that are turned up under the surface. Mary Kate is puzzled that he isn't more practical - planting vegetables instead of flowers:

Sean: Now I know why they have so many rock walls in this country.
Mary Kate: (gasping) Roses! Are you plantin' roses?!
Sean: Yeah.
Mary Kate: Fine farmer you are! - Not a turnip or a cabbage or a potato on the place.
Sean: Or children. (A rooster crows in the distance, accentuating the point.) I'm sorry.
Mary Kate: I'm sure they will make a very fine display around the cottage. It is a pretty cottage, isn't it?
Sean: (He picks up a buttercup flower.) I think so. (He hands her a small, yellow buttercup flower - a symbol of his love for her and the roses that will soon bloom. She holds it to her breast.)
Mary Kate: (changing the subject) Let me see now. We need a plow and a cultivator, and seed for plantin'. And about the horse for the plowin', we could sell that black hunter of yours.
Sean: I'll buy another horse for the plowin'. Or why not a tractor?
Mary Kate: A tractor! Nasty, smelly things, an' besides, they're an awful price. With a horse you get other advantages...
Sean: Yeah, for the roses.
Mary Kate: Roses again. You (she rethinks her sentence) - we could do our shopping in Castletown and if we put a good foot under us, we could be there and back by suppertime.
Sean: Five miles?
Mary Kate: Why, that's just a...
Sean: ...good stretch of the legs, right? All right. Get on your walkin' shoes.
Mary Kate: I'll be a minute. (He playfully spanks her across the backside as she climbs away from the garden.)

She 'comes a-runnin'' for their shopping excursion - with the buttercup placed on her lapel - when he honks the horn on a new one-horse cart he has bought for her. To break with propriety and tradition, he passively lets her drive him to town. In town, Mary Kate again proposes to Sean that he ask for her rightful monetary fortune from her cash-rich brother who has just sold sheep. Sean expands the rift of misunderstanding between them over the issue by being reluctant to fight for her money - he believes the Danahers are only mercenary, avaricious and greedy. [He associates the fortune with the prize purse he won in a tragic boxing match.] She interprets his revulsion for money and his refusal to fight (with his fists) for what is justly hers as sheer cowardice and as proof that he doesn't love her:

Mary Kate: Hurry. Now is a good time to ask him. What! Go on, go on.
Sean: Ask him what?
Mary Kate: About my money. He can't say that he hasn't got it with him now.
Sean: Can't you get it through your head that I didn't marry you for your fortune? I don't give a hang about the money.
Mary Kate: But he does. And that's the whole point of it. Now will you go and ask him?!
Sean: No, why shame ourselves?
Mary Kate: Shame? The shame's on you, not on me. Oh, on me too if I've married a coward.
Sean: Is that what you think of me?
Mary Kate: Well, what else if you let him rob you out of my money?
Sean: 'Money!' I'm sick of the talk of it. Is that all you Danahers think about - money?

She whips the horse, and spitefully strands him in Castletown by riding the five miles back to their cottage without him. He must walk back the distance on his own through the countryside. As he stalks along, he demonstrates his hostility toward her by kicking a rock away on the road, breaking a stick across his knee, throwing a rock, tossing away a lit cigarette, and disturbing a flock of white birds. On her way back, she speaks to Father Lonergan (who is engaged in his favorite pasttime - fishing) for counseling advice about their marital difficulties - in Gaelic! And then she confesses cryptically in English that they aren't sleeping together. She is chastened by the outraged Catholic Father for denying Sean his marriage rights - she is told to sleep with her husband:

Mary Kate: ...Sleeping bag, Father, with buttons....
Father Lonergan: Woman! Ireland may be a poor country, God help us, but here a married man sleeps in a bed and not a bag, and for your own good, I'll tell you...

At the same time, Sean stops off at the pub where he confronts Danaher and demands the dowry [a picture of a boxer is positioned on the wall behind Mary Kate's brother]. However, Sean turns and retreats from fighting for the prized money. Michaeleen despairingly sits down alone in a corner of the pub with his head in his hands after Sean walks away from Danaher's challenge.

Thornton confides in the local Anglican minister, Reverend Playfair - the only one who knows the boxer's past and amuses himself by playing tiddlywinks and collecting articles for his scrapbook about sporting events: "Well, since you know who I am, or was, you know why I don't want to fight him." The Reverend shows Sean his scrapbook collection with clippings about 'Trooper Thorn' and his last fight:

Heavyweight Challenger
Hangs Up Gloves After
Fatal Knockout
Vows he will never fight again.

Thornton accidentally killed boxing opponent Tony Gardello with a fatal knockout, and subsequently retired from boxing and fighting forever. Sean's professional boxing background created personal torment, guilt and internal turmoil - all bitter memories from America. The Protestant vicar tries to explain Mary Kate's point of view to Sean. He suggests that Sean can redeem himself and save his marriage in Ireland by fighting for his wife's love and not for her money:

Sean: Maybe it's just one of those things in the scrapbook, but now when you carry it around in here...I didn't go in there to outbox him. I went in there to beat his brains out. To drive him into the canvas, to murder him. That's what I did. For what? The purse, a piece of the gate. Lousy money.
Reverend: And now money is behind your trouble with Danaher.
Sean: They think I'm afraid to fight him, all the friends I've made here, even my wife.
Reverend: But aren't you in a way?
Sean: Did you ever kill a man? Well I have, and all this talk about her big fortune. It's not that important.
Reverend: Perhaps it is to her. It must be strange to you from America, but it's an old, old custom here, and believe me, it's a good custom. The fortune means more to her than just the money.
Sean: To me it isn't, and worth fightin' for.
Reverend: Is your wife's love worth fightin' for?
Sean: I don't know. About all I know is I can't fight or won't fight unless I'm mad enough to kill, and if that means losin' her, I don't know. Maybe she doesn't love me enough.
Reverend: It's a difficult situation. But I think you'll find the answer in God's good time.

The Reverend also faces being transferred out of the community. He preaches to a "small congregation - just two or three people at the service," and his visiting Bishop may move him elsewhere. An amateur light-weight boxer himself from long ago, Playfair gives Sean some boxing advice regarding Danaher: "Don't underestimate Danaher. He may be clumsy, but he's got a tremendous right and a jaw of granite."

That evening in their cottage in front of a reddish-orange, glowing hearth, Mary Kate hands Sean a stick so that he can beat her for her day's disobedience. He refuses to dominate her and tosses it away into the fireplace. She dutifully lights his cigarette, sits on the arm of his chair, and they talk about how each of them went to different clergymen for help. In a tender, wordless, mutually-loving scene in a sequence of shots that brings them closer together, he places his arm around her, and she leans down with her face next to his. Then he lifts her right arm and places it around his neck. She nuzzles her head toward him as they soften toward one another. He gently squeezes her hand as they tightly embrace in his chair - then the scene fades to black. [They consummate their marriage by sleeping together that night - before resolving the issue of the dowry.]

The couple's basic problem still remains, however - she continues to believe that her husband is a coward. Sean awakens with an obvious, sexually-satisfied, docile smile on his face - but Mary Kate has left him. She has fled and journeyed to town to take the Dublin train. Michaeleen, the ever-present official of the community, explains that she has walked out on him because she was ashamed. According to Michaeleen, she loved him too much to live with him and continually be reminded of his refusal to demand her financial dowry:

Me very question, 'Why?' says I. 'Because I love him,' says she. 'I love him too much to go on livin' with a man I'm ashamed of.'

She coerces him into liberating both of them by leaving him when he fails to respond to her - in doing so, she assumes a ritualistic, traditional male role. Determined to fight for the married woman he loves before she escapes, an enraged Sean saddles his black stallion horse and gallops to the train station. As he marches down the platform, searches through the compartments of the train cars, and slams the open doors of empty coaches, he finds her crouching down and cringing in one of them. He pulls her off the train to Dublin, wraps her around a pole, and then marches her home. A large parade of villagers (and train employees) follow them for the brawl with Danaher that is expected to occur: "Danaher vs. the Yank."

The rough-and-tumble scene of dragging, shoving, pushing, and hauling Mary Kate the five miles from the station across the countryside to the farm and feet of Will Danaher is most famous. "He's walking her back - the whole long way!" Villagers on foot and on bicycle follow the pair across fields to see Sean finally fulfill her wishes by confronting her brother. When she loses her shoe or falls, he doesn't stop hauling or marching her along: "It's only five miles. Just a good stretch of the legs." One woman offers a stick: "Sir, here's a good stick to beat the lovely lady." The crowd swells in size as they get closer.

Sean brings his bedraggled wife over to confront Danaher (who is surrounded by farm equipment and his field crew). The men and women from the village who are communal witnesses stand in two separate groups. Having finally understood and accepted the rules and traditions of the community (and the family unit), Thornton publicly and decisively confronts Mary Kate's brother - he shouts his demands. Either he is paid the dowry of 350 pounds or the marriage is over. To emphasize his claim, Sean tosses Mary Kate back at her brother when he initially denies payment:

Sean: Danaher, you owe me three hundred fifty pounds. Let's have it.
Danaher: ...I'll pay ya - never!
Sean: That breaks all bargains. (He hurls the humiliated and shamed Mary Kate to the open ground at Danaher's feet.) You can take your sister back. It's your custom, not mine. No fortune, no marriage. We call it quits.
Mary Kate: (she stands) You do this to me? Your own wife, after...?
Sean: It's done.
Danaher: (after throwing paper notes at Sean) There's your dirty money. Take it. Count it, you spawn. And look. If ever I see that face of yours again, I'll push that [fist] through it.

Danaher relents and tosses the 'dirty money' dowry at Thornton - in front of an assembled crowd of spectators.

Now that her honor has been triumphantly defended, Mary Kate and Sean act as equal marital partners. As she beams with pride, she opens a threshing machine door. Sean flamboyantly throws the money in, and then she slams shut the door. She stands before him - in a masculine, fighting stance - they are joined together in the frame as Sean liberates them by tossing the dowry money into the fiery furnace to be burned [a reminder of the blast furnaces of America or the 'burnt offerings' or sacrifices in the Bible?]. Now with a secure marriage in place, both of them acknowledge that their needs have been fulfilled - she has her rightful dowry after a public demonstration of her husband's love, and he has his integrity, self-respect and freedom from the past with the incineration of the dowry. Sean's guilt over the mercenary boxing match that resulted in the accidental death of his opponent is finally exorcised with the burning of his wife's money.

As they walk arm in arm past her brother, Danaher aims and misses a blow with a clenched fist to Sean's head. Realizing that her husband will begin an epic brawl with Danaher, Mary Kate promises Sean that she will return to their home to prepare his supper:

I'll be goin' on home now. I'll have the supper ready for ya.

She strides off alone - her own strength, identity and power are spatially communicated.

From the farm, across the hillside, through a haystack, and into a stream, Thornton and his brother-in-law Danaher are enjoined in battle against each other in one of the film's highlights. The news of the historic, titanic fight is spread from village to village. Many affectionate vignettes of the spectators are presented that demonstrate that the fisticuffs are mostly fought in jest: the Widow Tillane roots for Danaher: "It's that big bellowing bully concerns me. 'I'm the best man in Innisfree' - as if I didn't know that." Patriarch Dan Tobin is brought to life - he jumps up from his deathbed (where last rites are being intoned, or he is being read to from an Irish saga?) and hobbles out into the street while pulling on his pants to see the fight; Michaeleen takes book on the outcome - even the priests place wagers from afar where they watch with binoculars.

During a short truce in the mock-fight to quench their thirst with pints, the brawlers pass through a nearby pub for drinks-on-the-house at the "end of round one." They begin to put their antagonisms over the dowry to rest:

Danaher: You know, Yank, I've taken quite a likins to yas.
Sean: I'm getting real fond of you too.
Danaher: Yer widow, me sister, she coulda done a lot worse.

They commence fighting after rejecting each other's offers to pay for the stout drinks of beer refreshment. Thornton blasts Danaher through the pub wall into the cobble-stoned street. They continue to pummel and bash each other during the long donnybrook, but as night falls, they end their exhausting, cathartic fight with newfound respect for each other. Now bonded together as battered blood brothers, they stagger drunkenly arm-in-arm at twilight to Sean's cottage for supper - singing an off-key rendition of "The Wild Colonial Boy" as they slosh through the stream. Standing at the door of her domain with her hands on her hips, Mary Kate is both perturbed, amused and encouraged by the sight of their reconciliation:

Sean: Woman of the house! I have brought the brother home to supper. (He wildly slings his cap from his head into the bedroom.)
Mary Kate: He is kindly welcome.
Danaher: God bless all in this house.
Mary Kate: (sternly) Wipe your feet!

As a result of the fight, the Danaher family (and the town of Innisfree) is harmoniously reunited and restored, and the conflict between the married couple is ended. Mary Kate is established in her home in her rightful place - she sets the table for their supper.

"So peace and quiet came once again to Innisfree," but one more problem threatens. To help save the threatened Protestant Reverend Playfair's position, the villagers are instructed to line the road and pay tribute to a visiting Anglican bishop. Catholics are 'disguised' as cheering Protestants - and Catholic Father Lonergan covers his clerical collar - in an effort to create the impression of a large Protestant congregation. [Uncharacteristically, Catholics and Protestants join together as part of the film's wish-fulfillment for harmonizing religious peace.]

In a parallel or symmetrical fashion, the romance between Red Will Danaher and Widow Tillane is encouraged in the customary way in the town. The courting couple are closely supervised by the eternal matchmaker Michaeleen, but the pair ride on the same side of the courtship cart this time:

No patty fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats.

The couple ride through the throngs of assembled townspeople. In a montage presented like a curtain-call, the major characters of the film are shown one last time.

In the final scene that concludes the film in a harmonious, idealized way, Mary Kate and Sean are a happy, smiling couple in front of their home. Both watch fondly and wave in the direction of the courtship between Will and the widow Sarah. Sean clutches a stick in his hand - the one given to him by an old woman to beat his wife. Mary Kate whispers something suggestive, pleasing and startling in his ear - he grins widely. To symbolically reject the idea that he dominates her as a husband, she grabs the stick from his hand, tosses it away, and runs ahead of him toward the cottage across stones that serve as a footpath over the brook. Sean pursues and catches up with her, takes her in his arms, and they walk together toward the cottage - side by side as congruent, respectful equals. She playfully pulls away from him one more time and he again catches up to her and they join hands as they enter their house.

Bagpipes accompany the climax: "The End."

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