“First Confession” by Frank O’Connor
“I decided that, between one thing and another, I must have broken the whole ten commandments, all on account of that old woman, and so far as I could see, so long as she remained in the house I had no hope of ever doing anything else,” (page 189). This quote from the text of “First Confession” by Frank O’Connor exquisitely shows which point of view O’Connor selected for his story. Frank O’Connor chose the first-person point of view to tell his tale. One can determine this by three factors: the use of the word “I”, the use of grammatical voice and the use of conveying the story through the characters.
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These three techniques are shown vividly throughout O’Connor’s novella. The use of the word “I” in O’Connor’s short story is in the text continuously with an unquestionable presence. A prime example of the usage of “I” in O’Connor’s tale is first seen in the second paragraph as Jackie talks about his grandmother favoring Nora, his older sister, over him: “Nora, my sister, just sucked up to the old womanI was too honest, that was my trouble; and when I was playing around with Bill Connelland saw my grandmother steering up the path with the jug of porter I was mortified.
I made excuses not to let him into the house, because I could never be sure what she would be up to when we went in,” (page 188). The application of the word “I” is an obvious and well-known method of the first-person point of view, as well as using another compatible method such as grammatical voice. Grammatical voice is a conventional technique of guiding the reader through the story using a first-person point of view. This is a type of writing that gives the reader a strong impression of the character’s background.
In other words, the author uses specific vocabulary as the character speaks to improve the reader’s understanding of the individual (including his/her feelings, thoughts, attitude and prejudices) without actually stating each characteristic in the text. An excellent example of this is found in O’Connor’s story when Jackie walks through the confessional door: “It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see the priest or anything else.
Then I really began to get frightened. In the darkness it was a matter between God and me, and He had all the oddsAll I had ever been told about confession got mixed up in my mind, and I knelt to one wallI waited a few minutes, but nothing happened, so I tried it on the other wall. Nothing happened there either. He had me spotted all right,” (page 190). This quote shows many characteristics of Jackie without the author writing them down.
The first being that he is young in mind because he is sure that God was going to damn him to hell; mature individuals realize that most likely God is not going to damn a child to hell, especially if, like Jackie, the child hasn’t done anything horribly wrong. Another characteristic that is shown in this small bit of text is Jackie’s innocence. Jackie believes that God knows all of his intentions and had him “spotted all right,” but Jackie doesn’t understand that God hasn’t done this to him; the priest just doesn’t realize that he is there.
The method of grammatical voice is used primarily in first-person point of view to give the story a graceful and more sophisticated flow and to not waste time elaborating on specific details of each individual character. Conveying the story through the characters is tightly connected to the use grammatical voice. Communicating the story through the characters allows the author to exhibit several different dimensions without pulling the reader off onto unnecessary tangents that take the reader’s attention away from the story, much like using grammatical voice.
Yet, by having the character present new twists and turns in the tale it has two effects: one, it allows the author more room for detail without the essential elaboration on what is happening at the present time in the novella and two, the character is more greatly defined by explaining the action in the story. An impressive example of this is in the first paragraph of O’Connor’s short tale: “All the trouble began when my grandfather died and my grandmother-my father’s mother- came to live with us.
Relations in the one house are a strain at the best of times, but, to make matters worse, my grandmother was a real country-woman and quite unsuited to the life in townand to my Mother’s great indignation, she went round the house in bare feet,” (page 188). From this quote the reader is given a substantial amount of information without the difficulty of O’Connor having to introduce every character separately.
One knows that the relations in Jackie’s house are tense and the grandmother intensifies these emotions. The reader is also shown that Jackie’s mother dislikes her mother-in-law’s mannerisms. This use of conveying the story through the characters is another method that is primarily used in first-person point of view, conventionally for its simplicity and advantage of giving several details in a short amount of time. O’Connor shows first-person point of view unremittingly in the short story “First Confession.
By his usage of the word “I,” O’Connor announces to the reader that he is writing in first-person, by using the method of grammatical voice O’Connor shows another technique of writing in first-person and, intertwined with grammatical voice, his conveyance of the story through the characters is his last usage of writing in the first-person point of view. These three applications of writing give the reader a sure perception of O’Connor’s point of view.