Everyone shows traces of the little green monster, known as jealousy, but some more than others. This specific trait has had a huge effect on the world over time, sometimes destroying, sometimes rebuilding trust, friendships, and even business opportunities. Jealousy is an extremely prominent element in most of Frank O’Connor’s writings and is often shown through different literary concepts such as conflict, characterization, and obsessive love.
In writing “My Oedipus Complex”, O’Connor investigates the issue of jealousy through the various actions of his characters and the conflicts they get themselves tangled in, more importantly the ones involving their childlike obsessive love. To fully understand O’Connor’s stories, you first have to delve deep into his background. Frank O’Connor was born in Cork, Ireland, on September 17, 1903 to Michael and Minnie O’Donovan. He was born under the name of Michael O’Donovan, but later created the pseudonym “Frank O’Connor” that he would use for all of his writings (Gale).
It was there in Cork that he experienced the horrors and distress of living in poverty. Even when the family had a small amount of money, O’Connor’s father would regularly go out on drinking sprees and return home violent and cruel (Gale). O’Connor, being the only son, learned to help provide for his mother when his father’s priorities fell short. O’Connor’s education was minimal as he only attended formal school for a short period of time. Although, even after he couldn’t afford it any longer, he continued to further his education by reading widely and often (Contemporary).
Under the guidance and instruction of Daniel Corkey, O’Connor’s biggest influence, he joined the Irish Republican Army. He fought against the British even after a treaty was signed ending the war in 1921 (Gale). O’Connor was then arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in abiding the fight (Gale). During his time in prison, O’Connor continued to educate himself until his release in 1923 and formed many of the ideas that he would use in his future short stories. After he was released from prison in 1923, O’Connor held various teaching posts at American Universities. He then went back to Ireland and worked as a librarian.
Being a librarian and educator suited O’Connor well because he could never put down a book and he was eager to share his knowledge with the rest of the world, especially the day’s youth. O’Connor continued to write and teach upon his return to Ireland and until his death, caused by a heart attack, on March 10, 1966 in Dublin. Although there were many worldly issues happening at the time “My Oedipus Complex” was written, O’Connor often chooses personal reminiscences over focusing on bigger, withstanding issues. “… nothing that can be identified as social or political about ‘My Oedipus Complex’… ” (Literature Resource Center).
Many of O’Connor’s other stories, however, were saturated with the conundrums of his time. In “My Oedipus Complex”, Larry is forced to face the fact that now that his father has returned from the war, Larry is no longer his mother’s first priority. This goes on to include the Irish Republican Army in O’Connor’s past. Also, World War I was touched on lightly. The first conflict in “My Oedipus Complex” is an extremely obvious one. The main conflict occurs between a young boy, Larry, and his father. For as long as Larry can remember, he has been living with only his mother because his father was a soldier in World War I (O’Connor 337).
While Larry was living with solely his mother, he was treated almost as an adult (O’Connor 343). Mother would often have long talks with her son in the mornings about the events that would occur later that day and what was running through her young child’s head. When father returns home, it is pure chaos between him and his only son as the morning ritual is interrupted and soon becomes forgotten. It is all that Mother can do to settle the constant bickering between her only son and her husband. It is impossible for her to choose a side because they both have such significant roles in her life.
Father often treats Larry as if he were merely the child that he really is, while Larry, used to being treated fairly in his own home, believes that he is much more mature than his father (O’Connor 343). Larry was fully convinced that Father didn’t deserve Mother’s love and affection nearly as much as him, so naturally Larry did all that he could to prevent him from getting it. Larry felt that Father was too conceited for his own good and every time he spoke, Father’s words agitated Larry beyond belief (O’Connor 346). In other words, he saw Father as a self-absorbed, immature fool (O’Connor 340).
These observations made Larry realize how much he hated Father at the time, but his attitude towards his father would soon change for the better. For the time being, Larry, as he was only five and not getting his own way, was full of spite as soon as Father got home. He even kicked Father a couple times the next morning so that he could lie in the bed next to Mother instead of Father (O’Connor 344-345). This angered Father and flared up his reclusive anger towards his son. Father didn’t want to let his son or his wife know that he was getting impatient, but Larry was starting to see that all his little annoyances were starting to add up.
It was becoming more and more obvious to both Larry and his mother that Father was not at all pleased with Larry’s actions. Larry would often catch Father glaring at him from the corner of his eye and referred to him as “a mountain out for murder” (O’Connor 346). All the tension within the family was starting to affect everyone in the household. “That settled it. Either Father or I would have to leave the house” (O’Connor 343). When the new baby (Sonny) is born, Father is thrown into the same position as Larry. Mother is suddenly ignoring not only Larry, but Father, too (O’Connor 349).
Father seeks solace in Larry, climbing into bed with him and complaining about Sonny, and the two of them bond this way. Finally, an understanding is reached. Father is sympathetic towards Larry now that he knows what his son has been through because he has been going through the exact same thing ever since Sonny was born. Father even ends up buying Larry an expensive train set for Christmas because now he understands how it feels to be forgotten in the midst of other people. The unique way that O’Connor develops his characters has a prominent effect on the way he tells his story.
Since Larry is the main character, he has the most divergent traits. He often expresses an astounding level of maturity, but after Father returns from the war, he often thinks about how there is a lot that he doesn’t understand (O’Connor 342). Larry’s lack of understanding is most noticable when he thinks about how things were when it was just him and Mother at home and compares it to how they are now that Father is back. Larry, being just a young boy, did not have very much patience or understanding for what was going on and he didn’t like that Father was seemingly stealing Mother away from him (O’Connor 342).
Growing up, O’Connor did not have a good relationship with his father, so he used that to supplement this story in particular. In addition to growing up without a positive father figure O’Connor had to take on a role of responsibility because of his father’s alcoholism. In “My Oedipus Complex”, Larry makes it clear that he feels that he is the more mature figure in his mother’s life. “I had been through it all myself, and even at that age I was magnanimous” (O’Connor 349). Because of this, Larry also thinks that he is more deserving of his mother’s attention, care, and love.
The young boy viewed himself as responsible for his mother’s health and did not like it when Father came home and Mother was worried and concerned all the time (O’Connor 339). Although Larry saw himself as older and wiser than he really was, he had a very rich imagination. In the mornings, before he went upstairs to his mother’s room, Larry would let Mrs. Left and Mrs. Right, his feet, have various discussions regarding the day’s events (O’Connor 338). When Father returned home, Mother became instantly anxious and no longer had time for their morning talks (Website).
Her concern for Father was overpowering her love for her only son, which again, fits in well with O’Connor’s background and childhood. Larry becomes extremely upset when he starts to think that his father has seemingly taken his place in his mother’s life. When he notices that Mother is becoming overwhelmingly concerned for Father, Larry quickly realizes that he despises seeing Mother this way (Website). When Father had finally returned from the war, instead of celebrating like they should have, Mother became extremely worried about Father’s physical health (O’Connor 339).
She was also concerned about his mental health because of the trauma he had endured. Larry was upset about this for two reasons, the first being that he didn’t like seeing his mother anxious and worried. When she was upset, so was he (Gale). The second reason was that Larry didn’t like that thought that his father was seemingly replacing him as his mother’s first priority. Because of all these tensions, Larry felt that he had to make sure that Father knew he wasn’t just going to give up the fight. Larry was openly willing to fight against his father for Mother’s affection (O’Connor 347).
He thought that Mother was with Father only because he was forcing her to be. With this in mind, Larry knew that he had to get Mother out of Father’s grasp. By doing this, Larry felt that he was “rescuing” his mother in a way (O’Connor 347). “’I’m going to marry you. ‘ I said quietly [to Mother]” (O’Connor 347). In his many short stories, specifically My Oedipus Complex, O’Connor creates conflict, a lugubrious family, and distinct character traits to interpret the theme of jealousy into the plot of his story.
He also uses those three concepts as an insight to his background and childhood. Even though O’Connor doesn’t have very many cultural influences over his writings, he makes sure that there are some working forces behind them. The only thing that differentiates O’Connor’s writings from any other author’s writings is that instead of have cultural influences, O’Connor has personal influences. He often uses his own life as a supplement to his fictional stories. O’Connor does a wonderful job of piecing together the small parts of his mind and connecting them into his writings.