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Overcoming Fear in Frank O’Connor’s First Confession

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Overcoming Fear in Frank O’Connor’s “First Confession”

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David W. Madden believes several of Frank O’Connor’s stories reflect his personal life and goals. Jackie, the young protagonist, in the “First Confession,” loves his mother as equally as O’Connor loved his mother. Madden also believes O’Connor should have selected a religious calling because the priests mentioned in his stories incorporate the instrumental impact on the “laity’s lives” (3227). Understanding women, contributed by his mother’s influence, frequently are displayed in O’Connor’s writings. Madden feels that some of O’Connor’s stories focus on “naïve, sensitive figures who struggle with what seems to them the insoluble mysteries of existence,” such as children’s journey through life (3227-28). The story reinforces the theme that a child overcoming a fear of the unknown can enhance his sense of confidence.

The plot of “First Confession” is about a young boy, Jackie, trying to conquer the terror of telling his first confession. Jackie’s problems begin when his grandmother comes to live at the house. He detests her for being an alcoholic, slovenly ill-mannered woman. Most of all, Jackie is upset that he is excluded from the penny allowance that his sister, Nora, gets. Because his sister and grandmother side against him, Jackie’s life becomes intolerable.

Jackie is preparing to receive his First Penance and First Holy Communion. Mrs. Ryan, the religion education teacher, projects a negative image to Jackie about confessing his sins. She is a woman who only spoke of Hell and mentioned Heaven only by accident. Jackie feels she is a lady where “Hell had the first place in her heart” (176). Mrs. Ryan entices the children with money to stick their finger in the flame of a candle. She associates this with burning in Hell. An example is a horrid story about a man who makes a bad confession. The man wakes a priest in the middle of the night insisting he make a confession. After the priest is dressed, the man is gone only to leave behind his handprints burned into the sheets. Jackie is forced to go to confession with his wicked sister, Nora. When it is Jackie’s turn to go into the confessional, he is so nervous that he kneels on the armrest. Consequently, he slips and plunges out the door. Nora is embarrassed and begins to smack him. As soon as the priest sees...

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...3. Mrs. Ryan is trying to teach the children to live a faithful life, not to be afraid of confessing.

VIII. To defeat the terror of the unknown increases one’s self- assurance

Works Cited

Bowden, Curtis. “Synopses and Quick Critiques.” Frank O’Connor: New Perspectives.

Eds. Robert C. Evans and Richard Harp. West Cornwall, CT.: Locust Hill, 1988.

297-350.

Denio, Megan L. “The Child In, Around and of Father Fogarty.” Frank O’Connor: New

Perspectives. Eds. Robert C. Evans and Richard Harp. West Cornwall, CT.: Locust

Hill, 1988. 139-147.

Evans, Robert C. and Katie Magaw. “Irony and Paradox in Frank O’Connor’s Style.”

Frank O’Connor: New Perspectives. Eds. Robert C. Evans and Richard Harp. West

Cornwall, CT.: Locust Hill, 1988. 149-155.

Madden, David W. “First Confession/ O’Connor.” Masterplots II 8. Ed. Frank N.

Magill. Pasadena, CA.: Salem Press, 1996. 3226-3228.

O’Connor, Frank. “First Confession.” Frank O’Connor: Collected Stories. New York:

Vintage Books, 1982. 175-182.

Werber, Owene. “A Woman’s Voice Speaking.” Frank O’Connor: New Perspectives.

Eds. Robert C. Evans and Richard Harp. West Cornwall, CT.: Locust Hill, 1988.

121-350.
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