At Swim-Two-Birds Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 37 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of At Swim-Two-Birds.
This section contains 593 words
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At Swim-Two-Birds Summary & Study Guide Description

At Swim-Two-Birds Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on At Swim-Two-Birds by .

NOTE: Citations in this Study Guide refer to the following edition of the book: O’Brien, Flann, At Swim-Two-Birds, Penguin, 2000, Kindle AZW file.

At Swim-Two-Birds tells the story of a student living with his uncle while studying for his degree at college. The student writes a novel about a writer named Trellis whose characters decide to revolt against their author.

The student begins his novel with three separate openings featuring the characters Pooka MacPhellimey, John Furriskey, and Finn Mac Cool. The student argues with his uncle who thinks the student does not spend enough time studying. The student writes an extract of his novel told from the perspective of Fin Mac Cool, a mythical giant from Irish folklore.

The student goes out drinking with fellow students from his college and becomes extremely drunk. While recovering from his hangover, he is visited by his friend Brinsley and they discuss the student’s novel. The novel is about a man named Trellis who is the landlord of the Red Swan Hotel. Trellis is an author who compels all of his fictional characters to live with him in his hotel. The student borrows money from his uncle to buy a book but spends it on gambling instead.

Trellis created a character named Furriskey who was born as a fully-grown adult man. Furriskey met two of Trellis’s other characters, Shanahan and Lamont, who told him about their exploits being employed by Trellis in a Western story which also featured characters named Shorty and Slug. The student reads over his work and realizes that his writing is not very good. Furriskey decided to disobey Trellis’s orders and created a happy life for himself while Trellis was asleep, but he had to return to the Red Swan Hotel whenever Trellis was awake. Fin Mac Cool told the story of Mad King Sweeney who lived in treetops as a bird. Shanahan told the other characters about a working class poet named Jem Casey.

The student is introduced to a friend of his uncle. The uncle criticizes the student’s laziness. The student visits a friend’s house and tells a group of people about his novel.

The Pooka, a devil from Irish folklore, was visited by the Good Fairy who told him that they would compete for the right to influence the life of someone about to be born at the Red Swan Hotel. The Pooka and the Good Fairy began their journey walking through the woods. On their way, they met Shorty, Slug, Jem Casey, and Sweeney. The men sang and recited poetry on their way to the Red Swan Hotel. While they waited for the birth, they played cards. The Good Fairy was unable to cover his gambling debts and so gave up his right of influence over the newborn Orlick to the Pooka. Orlick was born as a fully-grown man and went to live with the Pooka.

Orlick returned to the Red Swan Hotel and came up with a plan alongside Furriskey, Shanahan, and Lamont to overthrow Trellis. Orlick wrote a novel in which Trellis was tortured by the Pooka and then tried for crimes against his characters. A maid at the hotel saw that Trellis was not in bed and took the opportunity to tidy his room. She burned several pages of manuscript, destroying the characters of Orlick, Furriskey, Shanahan, and Lamont. Trellis returned home.

The student passes his final exams and his uncle congratulates him with a gift of a watch. The student is very moved by the gesture.

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