Task: Frank O’Connor stories often appear in anthologies of short stories because they are regarded as good stories. Choose one story by Frank O’Connor which you feel should be included in an anthology. Fully explain why you think this text deserves inclusion in a collection of short stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “On Christmas Morning” by Frank O’Connor as it covers many different themes. In this essay I will look at what makes it good in order to show that the story deserves inclusion in an anthology of good stories.
The story is based on the childhood of a young Irish boy called Larry. The first thing we learn from the story is that he is the eldest of two brothers and that he doesn’t like his brother Sonny.
Larry does not pay much attention at school and would rather be out playing with his friends he says “for the life of me I couldn’t see what attracted mother to education”. Larry’s relationship with Sonny is pretty poor. Sonny is good at his books and his mother’s favourite because of this. Larry thinks that rather than try to be smarter than Sonny and fail he just won’t try at all, we see this when Larry says “it wasn’t my fault if, four days before the holidays, Flogger Dawley gave us sums we couldn’t do, and Peter Doherty and myself had to go on the lang”. As the story goes on we see the mischievous Larry develop into a more deceitful person. Larry hangs about with the Doherty gang and his mother isn’t very pleased with this “can’t you do your lessons first and play after?” She would say. The piece of evidence which shows us Larry developing into a deceitful person the most is when he swops presents with Sonny because he feels he got the better present. He assures himself he is doing Sonny a good turn and that Sonny would have no use for a popgun and would much rather prefer a picture book. Larry says to himself “Sonny would never be any good in a gang: he was fond of spelling, and a studious child like him could learn a lot of spellings from a book like mine.” Larry believes Santa is real contrary to what the Dohertys’ say but when him and Sonny take their presents to show their mum and dad “mother smiled, but only for an instant.” Larry is quite perceptive in realising that his mother has bought the presents and Santa Clause isn’t real. He feels guilty about what he had done and “I burst out crying, threw the popgun on the floor, and ran bawling out of the house………” He now realises why his mother wanted more of him and that she sees he is going the same way as his father.
Larry’s mother is the other character that makes the story so realistic. She has a difficult time bringing up two children practically on her own. The only help she has is the little amounts of money she gets from her husband. He is more often than not spending his money at the pub and offers the mother no real support. When he is at home he is normally too drunk to notice her. The author describes the husband as “mean and common and a drunkard.” The mother’s only joy is her youngest child, Sonny, who is good at his books but she still cannot forget the problem with her eldest, Larry. I think she has tried hard with Larry but feels he will also end up like his father.
One of the main themes covered in the story is growing up. Larry has lead a difficult life for a child his age. I think the mother wanted him to grow up faster than normal because she receives no support from her husband. I think because Larry hasn’t grown up faster than normal the mother has given up hope in him too soon.
Another theme found in the story is that of relationships a family holds. In this story we see many poor relationships. We see the poor relationship between Larry and Sonny, the poor relationship between the mother and the father and the poor relationship between Larry and his mother. The only good relationship is between Sonny and his mother. The boys have a poor relationship because they have been brought up in an environment where their mother and father have a poor relationship.
One other minor issue is the loss of innocence and guilt. Larry being the character who experiences these feelings. Near the end of the story we see that Larry feels guilty for the way he has treated his mother. We also see that Larry has lost the innocence a child possesses and is probably destined to end up like his father.
O’Connor has made this story what it is by using Irish dialect to give it a more Irish feeling. The narration of the story also enhances it. First person narration is used and because of this we get a more personal view of what happens although it may be biased at points. Larry is the narrator and tells us what he thinks and feels about what happens. We also find out what his emotions are.
The story’s title is ironic because when we think of Christmas we usually remember happy thoughts but here Larry is realising what his life holds for him and how much he has really let his mother down.
I enjoyed reading this story very much and would personally include it in an anthology of good stories as it has many themes and realistic characters. I also liked it because you need to read it more than once to gain a full picture of what was going on. The fact that one person could read it and gain something completely different from someone else also intrigued me.