EFL Movie Study Guide for:
Far and Away
Story: This is the story of
Irish immigrants to America in the late 1800s, who struggle with hunger,
hatred, prejudice and “just plain hard work” to start a new life. How do
you define success? In this movie, the daughter of a wealthy landlord left
a big house and privileged life to become an immigrant; the son of a poor
tenant farmer found success as a boxer—for a while! Like the people in
this film, we often discover that true success turns out to be something
quite different than what we originally thought. (1992; Tom Cruise, Nicole
Kidman, Dir Ron Howard; Imagine Films; Boxing, Romance, Drama, US History;
PG-13; 130 min)
Setting: Ireland and America – 1890’s
Joseph Donelly – the youngest son of an Irish farmer; one of
three brothers (actor: Tom Cruise)
Mr. Daniel Christie – the landlord for Joseph, his family, and most of his
Shannon Christie – Mr. Christie’s daughter, who thinks of her family’s
status as a prison
Mr. Stephen Chase – Mr. Christie’s property manager, who wants to marry
Mike Kelly – The "ward boss" in Boston, who ran the "social
club" for Irish people
A few terms
(vocabulary): (underlined words are vocabulary terms)
acre: a unit for measuring land equal to 4840
square yards (4047 square meters) [see “Historical Facts” below]
*bread and butter: [idiom] livelihood; one’s
work and salary (“Boxing, not plucking chickens, is my bread and butter.”
“No, Mike Kelly is your bread and butter, you snob.”)
a broke horse: a tame horse; a horse
that has been trained so that people can ride it
buckboard and harness: a wagon, and a leather
thing worn by the horse pulling this wagon (Joseph says a used buckboard
would cost $25, and that they needed several things for the horse, including
a harness, bit, frame, collar, and reins)
burglars: thieves; people who steal from
collar: the part of a shirt closest to your
neck; a buttoned collar is considered formal (e.g., when you are wearing a
necktie), esp. in old-fashioned clothes (“Button that collar, Shannon!
Better to choke than be vulgar.”)
a corker: (rare, at least in AmE) something
*to cross sb or be cross with sb: to make sb
angry (“If you cross me, I’ll kill you.” “Are you cross with me, Shannon?”)
*eviction (to evict): when a land or apartment
owner has a tenant (see tenant farmer) removed through a legal
process. A family is usually evicted after several warnings, because they do
not pay rent or other debts owed to the landlord. (“You have been warned
thrice [three times] so your family is hereby evicted from our land.”)
*immigrant: someone who leaves his home
country to settle and become a citizen in a new country
knickers: (old-fashioned term, not used
anymore) women’s underwear or panties
*landlord: the owner of the land and
everything on the land (buildings, etc.). In this film, the landlord had
inherited the land from his father; he allows others to live on and grow
things on his land for payment.
mick: (now rare in AmE) an insulting term,
meaning “stupid Irish man”
*miracle: something very good that you did not
expect to happen or did not think was possible, but it happened anyway (esp.
when God does such a thing)
pickings are slim (or slim pickings):
[idiom] none of what is available is very good; whatever you choose, it
won’t bring much profit/good
*property manager: someone the land-owner puts
in charge of handling his property and business affairs. This includes
settling disputes and collecting rent from tenants. In this film, Mr. Chase
represents the landlord in managing the property, often acting harshly
without the landlord knowing about it.
to shag: to have sex with (this term isn’t
used much anymore)
*snob: someone who thinks he is better than or
smarter than others
to stab: to push a knife (or sth equally
sharp) into sth or sb
a stake (to stake): a pointed piece of wood,
pushed into the ground to mark something (or the action of pushing such a
stake into the ground, esp. to claim a piece of land)
*stuffy: a room without fresh air, or
people/places that are not “fresh” (modern or casual) enough
tenant farmer: a common farmer who rents his
land (i.e., does not own any property). He must pay rent to the land owner
(landlord), whether or not the land produced a good harvest of food. Some
tenant farmers lived on the same land for generations, but high rent and
other debts made the family little more than slaves.
*undefeated: never been beaten; to have won
every fight/contest so far
*ward boss: the recognized leader of a “ward”;
US cities are divided into “wards” so that the people can elect local
representatives (a “ward” is also a section of a hospital)
More detailed introduction:
(underlined words are vocabulary terms)
In the late 1800’s, landlords own most
of the land in Ireland. Tenant farmers are allowed to live and work
the land, but must pay rent to the landlord. Because the land has been
overworked, and because of poor weather, crops (i.e., food) are hard to
grow. Greedy (or ignorant?) landlords are evicting farmers because they can
not pay the rent.
Since the 1830’s, many Irish people have been
moving to America in hopes of finding a better life. They speak English, but
prejudice makes it hard to find decent work and living conditions. The
discrimination comes because there are so many of them, and because of
cultural prejudice (the British and the Irish had been fighting for
After an accident (caused by the landlord)
kills Joseph’s father, and then Mr. Chase burns down their home, Joseph
Donelly seeks to avenge his father’s death. He fails to kill the landlord,
and instead ends up in a dual (gun battle) with Mr. Chase.
Mr. Christie’s daughter, Shannon, is unhappy
with her “high society” life in Ireland. She wants to go to America to find
“freedom” away from her parents and Mr. Chase. However, she needs a “body
guard” during the ocean crossing. At the last minute, she rescues Joseph
from his dual and they go to America together. When they arrive in Boston,
Shannon’s money is stolen, so she is left in a new country without any way
to live. To keep Boston’s “Irish Catholics” from killing Shannon (an “Irish
Protestant” and “enemy” because her father was a hated landlord), Joseph
says she is his sister. Next, they share a rented room for several months,
trying to save enough money to move west.
Life was hard for new immigrants.
Immigrants who had been in the US longer (e.g., “Mike” the ward boss)
took advantage of this, helping to give new people jobs and a place to live,
often in exchange for votes (political power) or money from those who
profited from cheap immigrant labor. (You will also hear/see Mike asking for
votes while complaining about “the Italians who are taking Irish jobs” in
America.) Conditions were poor, but many immigrants had no other choice.
Joseph and Shannon get a job “plucking chickens” for less than $4 per month.
Mike’s bar offers entertainment in the form
of alcohol, women and boxing (fighting). When Joseph decides to box, he
earns $4 his first night. He then becomes relatively rich as a fighter,
until he loses an important fight (in part, trying to protect Shannon).
Betting on Joseph makes Mike and an important politician lose a lot of
money, so they evict Joseph and Shannon. After wandering without food
for several days, Shannon is shot while they run away from a house they had
Meanwhile in Ireland, the Christie’s home had
been burned by unhappy farmers, so they move to America to find Shannon.
Stephen Chase is with them. When Shannon gets shot, Joseph takes Shannon to
the American house her parents were staying in.
Like many Irishmen (and Chinese people—who
were also discriminated against), Joseph then finds a job working for the
railroad. He tries to forget about Shannon and his dream of getting some of
Oklahoma’s “free land.” However, one night he dreams about his father and
decides to continue the journey to Oklahoma. Shannon, her parents, and
Stephen Chase also go to Oklahoma to run in the land race (see below).
The Oklahoma land rushes (there were five, I
believe) really did happen. In each “land rush” (or race), part of the
Oklahoma Territory was opened to new settlements (primarily for white
people; the US Government had purchased it, more or less, from American
Indians). Whoever replaced the government’s flag with their own stake
got the land—totally free. But this type of “free land race” was not (to my
knowledge) repeated elsewhere. Most of “the west” was sold, piece by piece
to settlers, by the US government (who bought it or won it in wars with
Indians, the French, Spain, or whoever claimed to own it).
Far and Away
shows the race that took place on September 16, 1893. Net sources/statistics
are inconsistent, but this was apparently the biggest land rush, in which
more than 100,000 settlers “raced” to claim part of the 6.5 million
available acres (cut into 42,000 parcels of 160 acres each—see below). Once
the 42,000 parcels were claimed, thousands of other participants were
disappointed. Some bought land from the winners, while others simply left
The first race started at noon on April 22,
1889 (the day after Easter). A seemingly reliable website (from Homestead
Congress) says that only 11,000 parcels of land were available that day.
Other sites say that 50,000 to 100,000 settlers were competing for those
parcels, and that the majority of claims went to “sooners” (like the
Christies in this film) who violated the law, entering “sooner” than
big was each piece of “free land”? If I understand the math correctly, 160
acres is a plot of land that, if square, measures about 804.7 meters on each
side (or 880 yards, 0.8 km, 0.5 miles). An acre is about 4840 square yards
or 4047 square meters. A mile is 1760 yards or 1609 meters. A kilometer/kilometre
is 1000 meters. To compare km with miles for longer distances, remember that
60 miles is about 100 km.]
Sentences/dialogs from the movie:
(see below the “discussion” section)
1. Tell your partner why Shannon wanted to go
to America, and explain why Joseph wanted to kill his landlord.
2. What do you think made Joseph change his
mind, and go to America with Shannon?
3. Later, the Christies and Mr. Chase also
went to America. Tell your partner why.
4. Talk about Mike, the ward boss, and his
“social club.” How was he “good” and how was he “bad”?
5. How do you define success? Who was
successful in this story? Explain.
6. Talk about Mr. Chase. When he burned the
Donelly home, he was “just doing his job” after the Donelly family didn’t
pay their rent. He was faithful to his employer. He seemed to love
Shannon—or did he? Was he brave or arrogant—and what is the difference? If
you had been in his shoes, what would you have done differently?
7. How did Mr. & Mrs. Christie get their land
in Ireland, and then their land in America? What did you think of their
actions at the end of the film? Should people be allowed to own land, or
should it belong to the government (or to the Indians, or someone else)?
Explain your opinion.
8. Who dies in this movie? Do you think (or
hope?) it is possible to die and then come back to life? Explain.
9. Look at dialog 5. Do you believe in
“destiny”? Do you think our ancestors are “watching from above” and helping
us? What do you think will happen to you after you die? Is there any way for
us to know about these things for certain? Explain your answers.
10. Our feelings (and the movie writers) make us think that Shannon made the
right choice (Stephen vs Joseph), but did she? If you were parents, what
would you think? The man says: "I love you. That's all that matters to me."
Is that a good enough reason to get married? Explain.
11. If you want more things to talk about in
English, tell your partner about each of these things from the film: silver
spoons, accidents, a thief, the ward boss, discrimination, dreams, dancing,
boxing, chickens, guns, the railroad.
Sentences/dialogs from the movie: (some are from
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104231/quotes) (underlined words are vocabulary terms)
1. [Joseph’s drunken older brothers, Colm and Paddy, are insulting
him because he works too hard “on the landlord’s land”; they are trying to
start a fight, for amusement.]
Joseph: My ambition’s a little grander than yours. A couple of lazy
Paddy: Oh, ambition, is it? To break your back on land that isn’t your
own—that belongs to the landlord Christie.
Colm: Hold your face up, lad. Give us something we can aim at.
Colm: Now, come on, Joseph honey. Just a nosebleed’s all we’re asking.
Joseph: I have no wish to fight you. [and then he hits Colm very hard]
[Danty Duff brings in their dying father—see the detailed
Joseph: How are you feeling now, Da?
Dad: My soul is departing from me, Joseph.
Joseph: Don’t you talk that way.
Dad: I’ll talk any way I please. I’m dying, I tell you!
Joseph: Well, you can’t die. We need you here, Da.
Dad: Need me? What for? [He starts singing] Her beautiful eyes were
a terrible curse… [Then dies]
Duff: God rest your soul. Poor Joe Donelly.
Paddy [to Colm]: We’d be as well to sell off a thing or two, now that
the old man’s gone.
Joseph: Is that any way to keen (mourn) over the death of our father?
Paddy: Misery’s a personal matter, Joseph. We don’t need any
Colm: Sure, he’s left us with a huge debt of rent on the land.
Joseph: We’ll begin to settle our debt when we harvest the land.
Colm: Grow the potatoes and pick them yourself, Joseph, you ambitious
Joseph: You son of a—
Dad [suddenly coming back from the dead, and grabbing his son]:
Joseph: Jesus and the saints preserve us! We thought you died, Da.
Dad: I did son, I passed away.
Joseph: But you’re talking to us, Da. And your eyes—they’re looking
Dad: I was as dead as a stone, I tell you. Now shut your mouth before
I die again. Come here! I've come back to tell you something. [Joseph comes
close.] You're an especially odd boy.
Joseph: You came back from the dead to tell me that I'm odd?
Dad: You have all kinds of oddities, clattering around in your brain.
So had I when I was as young as you. But dreams, my boy, in this poor corner
of the world, end up in a glass of ale (beer).
Joseph: No. Not my dreams, Da. I’ll work my own land someday.
Dad: Without land, a man is nothing. That’s it. Yeah. Land is a man’s
very own soul. A miracle—that’s what you’re looking for. And by God,
if you manage it, your old Da will be smiling down on you from heaven above.
[He starts singing again] Her beautiful eyes were a terrible… [Then
Duff: God rest your soul, Joe Donelly, for the second time.
2. [Joseph wants to kill his landlord (for killing his father), and
ends up in the landlord’s barn, waiting for morning. Shannon finds him
there. She has a pitchfork in her hand.]
Shannon: Stop right where you are! Don't flutter an eyelid or I'll
stab you! I'll stab you through! [she yells for help, and then stabs him
in the leg. He staggers out.]
Joseph: Mr. Daniel Christie! I am Joseph Donelly, of the family
Donelly that you pushed off our land.
Daniel: What in the name of God are you talking about?
Joseph: Prepare to pay for your crimes. [Joseph’s rusty gun misfires
and knocks him unconscious, but not before he can say the “rebellion code”:]
3. [It is clear that Shannon hates the “civilized” lifestyle that her
mother expects—like “Rose” in Titanic. She sees Joseph trip Stephen,
put his foot on his neck, and then spit in his face, which took a lot of
guts (bravery). Then Stephen challenged Joseph to a pistol (gun) duel at
dawn. During the night, Shannon comes in through Joseph’s window to steal
some silver spoons, and to try to persuade Joseph to “run away” to America
Shannon: Perhaps you are wondering why I’m running away. I’m running
away because I’m modern, and I’m going to a modern place. You’re not the
only one who’s trapped. If I stay here, my mother will turn me into one of
her stuffy old friends. No, thank you. I’m a little more interesting
than that. I’m very smart, and I’m very modern. That’s all you need to know
about me. Boy! Here, have a look at this… Oh. You can’t read, can you? How
pathetic. “Land,” it says.
Shannon: “Wanted: strong, healthy men and women. Every resident of the
United States is entitled to 160 acres of land.” They’ve got so much
of it, they give it away for free.
Joseph: No land is given away, in any part of the world.
Shannon: In America it is, and I’m going there. I’m going to have a
place of my own. And I will have horses on it, and I will raise them, and I
will ride them any way I please.
Joseph: What do you need more land for? You own half of Ireland as it
is! You took it—your people did!
Shannon: I didn’t take it.
Joseph: You just live here all fancied up on rent and broken backs.
Shannon: Boy, you said you wanted land. If that’s what you want, then
come with me. Great ships sail out of Dublin and Liverpool. But a woman dare
not travel alone. No. You’re brave. You shoot men. You step on their necks.
When I saw that, I realized you could be very useful to me.
Joseph: Useful, could I?
Shannon: Yes! You could be my serving boy! [Joseph feels insulted and
strongly refuses.] I’ll pay you three pence a day.
Joseph: Get out! I’ve got an appointment in the morning, and I’m going
to honor it.
Shannon: Ha! You'll never win this duel with Steven. We've all seen
you handle a gun. Boy, I am giving you your freedom!
Joseph: I'm not going to a distant world. I'm of Ireland, and I'll
stay in Ireland until I die!
Shannon: That's in about five hours.
4. [On the ship, they are talking to an American, Mr. McGuire, who turns
out to be a thief.]
Joseph: This girl’s got it in her head that they’re giving land away
[in America] for free.
Mr McGuire: That’s true. Oklahoma territory. The west is opening up.
Shannon: I told you, boy.
Joseph: [It] Can’t be good land.
Mr McGuire: It’s the finest in the world. Seeds flourish in it.
Cattle that grow upon it are fat as elephants.
Shannon: Well, how do you get it, Mr. McGuire? Is it there when you
step off the boat?
Mr McGuire: No, you have to travel 1000 miles (1700 km) or so. Then
when you get there you have to run for land in a race. Don’t lose time in
Boston. As soon as you can, purchase horses, a wagon and supplies. [Shannon
looks worried.] Have I upset you?
Shannon: Well, I didn’t expect it to be so complicated.
Mr McGuire: Oh, we’re very fortunate. Any difficulty can be overcome
Shannon [after sending Joseph away]: Mr. McGuire, I do have money, but
it is in the form of spoons. Ancient spoons made of silver. I’d planned to
sell them when I arrived in Boston.
Mr McGuire: Well, I can recommend a couple of shops that will treat
Shannon: I’m very much obliged to you, sir.
Mr McGuire: [The] Pleasure’s mine.
Shannon: Thank you.
Shannon [to Joseph, when she gets back to her table]: May I ask, what
are you doing, sitting at my table?
Joseph: I'm eating your chocolate cake.
Shannon: And what have you done with my father’s necktie?
Joseph: I flung it into the sea. It was gagging my throat.
5. [On their first day in America, Shannon is upset because she has “lost
everything,” but Joseph is starting to like the USA.]
Joseph: I think I like America. We’ve only been here a day. Look at
the welcome we’ve got. ‘Would you like a room? Here you go. Would you like a
job? Why, here you go. How about some land? Well, get a horse, and help
Shannon: So, now you believe me about the land, do you?
Joseph: If they’re throwing it away, I wouldn’t mind a piece of it.
Maybe this is my destiny. On his death bed, my father told me he'd be
watching me from up above. I wonder now if his spirit might be near, guiding
Shannon: If he bumps into Mr. McGuire up there, tell him I want my
6. Coniff: I think the prettiest girl in this factory, the one with the
prettiest eyes, and the prettiest red hair, is Joseph's sister - if you
don't mind me saying so Joseph.
Joseph: Well, you can say what you like lad. But I warn you, that
redhead has a bite that stings.
Flynn [the foreman at the chicken factory, talking to Shannon]: Get to
Shannon: Get your filthy hands off me, you ugly animal!
Flynn: That'll cost you a day's wage. Go ahead. Insult me again. [he
Shannon [weakly]: Pig. [women laugh]
Flynn: There goes tomorrow. [Are you] Done?
Shannon [looks over to Joseph, who gestures "No! Work!"; she returns
to work, but spins around]: Take Friday as well, you spineless little
fraction of a man.
Joseph [as everyone laughs]: Bite, lads. Bite.
7. [They are discussing the trip west, how much it will cost, how little
money they have saved, etc. At this point, they are both convinced that they
don’t need or want each other. Shannon says she can do it alone.]
Joseph: You're a corker, Shannon. What a corker you are.
[They get dressed for bed, and Shannon makes a fuss about maintaining
her decency/privacy in this shared room. After saying goodnight…]
Shannon: Am I beautiful at all?
Joseph: I've never seen anything like you in all of my living life.
8. D’Arcy Bourke [“a powerful man in Boston,” is talking to other men,
while making arrangements for Joseph to fight an “Italian champion.” When
Bourke sees Shannon walk by, he compares her to a delicious fruit dessert]:
Now that's a long-legged piece of strawberry tart!
[Joseph gets angry, and while agreeing to fight the Italian, he also
acts like he doesn’t need the ward boss any more.]
Mike Kelly [the ward boss]: Do you like your suit? Do you like having
a roof over your head? I’m your bread and butter, lad. Cross me,
and you’re nothing--nothing but an ignorant mick. You do what you’re
told or I’ll throw you out in the street, and every door you’ll knock on
will be slammed in your face. Do you understand?
9. [Grace calls for Joseph; he looks out the window and they agree to go to
church together the next morning. Shannon is jealous of the attention (and
money) Joseph is getting as a boxer.]
Shannon: She's got an awfully large chest to be going to church.
Joseph: Shannon, all chests are equal in the eyes of the Lord.
Shannon: If she goes into the confession box [to tell the priest that
she is sorry for her sins], she’ll never come out, the little tramp.
Joseph: Grace isn't a tramp. She's a dancer in the Burley-cue.
Shannon: That isn’t dancing. That's kicking her knickers up. I
suspect if you asked her to, she'd kick her knickers off.
Joseph: Oh, maybe she would.
Shannon: Has she?
Joseph: Let me see... I'm trying to remember.
Shannon: Well, think hard! If there's any brain left in your head!
Look at you. They’re making a fool of you, the ward boss and his friends.
Joseph: They respect me.
Shannon: They do not! They don’t respect you. You’re money in their
pockets, and nothing more, Joseph.
Joseph: That’s enough, Shannon. [angry, he throws her into a bathtub]
Tell me! Tell me you like my hat!
Shannon: You're not wearing a hat.
Joseph [yelling]: Say it! Say you like my hat!
Shannon: You're not wearing a hat!
[They fight and Shannon locks Joseph out of their room. The “dancers”
in the hall are watching, and Molly (who runs this boarding house/brothel)
Molly Kay: Oh, why don't you shag her and get it over with?
Joseph: She's... my sister!
Molly Kay: And I'm your mother. [all the ladies laugh]
10. [Joseph loses the fight—see the detailed introduction—and gets kicked
out of his home. They can’t find work, and haven’t eaten in days. Finally,
they break into a house in a rich neighborhood, and Joseph starts to eat
like an animal. Shannon confronts him, and he stops.]
Joseph: Shannon, sit down at this beautiful table.
Shannon: No. We can’t. We’re burglars.
Joseph: Please. I want you to pretend. Sit down. I’ll serve you.
Tonight I want you to dine.
Shannon: No, Joseph. Don’t serve me. Just sit down with me. Let’s
pretend that this house is ours, that you’re my husband and I’m your wife.
Sit down. Did you ever wonder what that land you dreamed of looked like?
Mine was a green pasture with tall grass, that rolled just a little bit.
Joseph: Mine had a stream running through it. Perhaps some trees.
Rich, dark soil. No rocks to pick out of the ground.
Shannon: Green pasture and a stream. They would complement each other,
Joseph: They would. The one, in fact, depends upon the other.
Shannon: Pretend you love me.
Joseph: I’ll pretend I love you.
Shannon: I’ll pretend I love you, too.
11. Officer [to a crowd outside the “Oklahoma land office” where people
register and get a stake]: Folks, each quarter section is marked. You
run for land, remove the marker and drive in your own stake. The race
begins tomorrow at noon….
Joseph: Where can I get a horse?
Seller: Well, you’re a little late, cowboy. Pickins are slim.
Now, this here horse is broke. That horse there, green broke. [Do
you] Know the difference? A broke horse is a dependable horse. A green broke
Joseph: That sounds good. The faster the better.
Seller: No telling what he’ll do, though. Hell, you could end up in
Canada on that green broke son of a bitch. [The green broke horse starts
kicking its legs into the air.]
Joseph: I think I’ll take the dependable horse.
Seller: I would.
[As Joseph walks away, he sees Shannon walking by.]
Joseph: I'm cursed. Oh Lord, I'm cursed.
12. Joseph [while talking to Shannon before the race, which they will not be
running together]: Shannon Christie! You never gave up. You knew what you
wanted, back in Ireland, and look at you. Here you are. You're a corker,
Shannon. What a corker you are.
13. Joseph [upon finding his horse dead, still tied to the hitching post]:
Sweet Mary and Jesus, and all the saints preserve us.
Old Man: That there was the oldest horse I ever saw in my life.
---If you want to be surprised by
the end of the movie, stop reading here!---
14. [Joseph and Steven fight, and Steven’s horse falls on Joseph; then
Shannon rushes to help Joseph.]
Joseph: I feel myself dying.
Shannon: No, you stay looking at my eyes. Look at my eyes, Joseph.
You’re not dying. Look, you’ve got your land.
Joseph: But all the land in the world means nothing to me without you.
I tried to prove myself to you, But I know nothing of books, alphabets, or
sun, or moon, or.... All I know is Joseph loves Shannon. That’s all that
matters to me. [His concentration fails and he dies.]
Shannon: No! Joseph. Please, don't leave me alone. Joseph, no! Please,
God in heaven, please. Joseph, don’t leave me. This was our dream together.
I don't want this without you! I loved you. I loved you from the first time
I saw you.
Joseph [coming back to life]: I've often wondered about that.
Shannon [surprised]: Joseph! You died!
Joseph: Aye. But you could be sure I won’t be dying twice.
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