Themes

Religion

Though it documents a chance encounter, the title identifies a religious holiday. What we can see is that, for certain members of society, Christian tradition does not play a significant part. The man is enjoying a day off, but the religious significance of the day seems to be relatively unimportant.

The stranger puts this lack of knowledge down to ignorance, something which he feels is the hallmark of the “working man”. Less critically, what the lack of knowledge demonstrates is a shift towards an increasingly secular society.

Social class

Social class and its relationship to education is also a key idea. The man, even in his inebriated state, recognises and responds to a perceived difference in class and education between himself and the speaker and seems apologetic for his “working man” status.

His assertion that the working classes are somehow incapable of being educated is perhaps the most poignant revelation in the whole poem and conveys a kind of resigned acceptance to the status quo.

This is a sentiment that many of us would take issue with especially in a country like Scotland where many of our most influential and inspirational figures have emerged from families proud of their working class roots. For this man, being working class is something that he associates not with pride but with ignorance and a lack of intellect.

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