A Day in the Dark

“infobox Book “
name A Day in the Dark
author Elizabeth Bowen
country United Kingdom
language English language
genre(s) Short Story
release date 1965
media type Paperback

A Day in the Dark is a short story written by Elizabeth Bowen. It was published as part of an anthology of her short stories in 1965

Character Summaries


The protagonist and narrator of the story. The story is a remembrance of her experiences as a fifteen-year-old, when she was young and innocent.

Miss Banderry

An older woman who is the last surviving member of a prominent family. She has an interest in Barbie’s uncle, and makes insinuations about Barbie’s relationship with him that change Barbie’s perspective about her uncle.


Barbie’s uncle. Barbie’s thoughts about him change at the end of the story.


Miss Banderry’s niece. She is a widow, and is quite cynical.

Plot Summary

The story is narrated by Barbie, recounting her time as a fifteen-year-old girl. The story is set on the West Coast of Ireland, in the small town of Moher. Barbie begins her story by describing the houses in the town, and also a history of the last member of a well-to-do family, Miss Banderry. Miss Banderry’s family has suffered personal tragedies including suicide. Barbie’s uncle has some sort of relationship with the woman. Barbie goes to see Miss Banderry one day to return a magazine and borrow tools, and brings the woman a gift of roses. She pretends that the roses are really a gift from her uncle.

However, when Barbie gets to Miss Banderry’s house, she finds out from Nan (the niece of Miss Banderry) that Miss Banderry is currently unavailable, so she has to wait. She amuses herself by looking around at the house’s rich interior and looks at her reflection in the mirror.

Miss Banderry wakes from her sleep and she and Barbie have a conversation. Barbie notices that the woman seems disappointed that Barbie’s uncle did not come to deliver the flowers himself. Barbies wonders if Miss Banderry can read her thoughts, and will therefore know that she loves her uncle.

Miss Banderry won’t lend Barbie the farm machinery, and Barbie becomes angry, saying that she will tell her uncle. This makes Miss Banderry change her mind, and then she tells Barbie that her uncle should have come to see her himself. Barbie claims that her uncle is too busy to do things like that.

The story then changes to be told from Barbie’s perspective when she is a bit older. She recalls how she and her uncle did not feel guilty about their relationship. Barbie then continues the story from her fifteen-year-old perspective. Nan asks her what she is going to do that afternoon, if she is going to see her uncle. Barbie says she didn’t know he was in town. She had planned to take the bus, but she sees her uncle’s car in town as she is passing.
Barbie’s attitude towards her uncle seems to have changed after her time spent with Miss Banderry, with her feelings towards him becoming more dread-like, but the story ends with her getting in the car with him.