Among American story writers of the twentieth century, the one to whom Andre Dubus is most often compared is Flannery O’Connor. While Dubus’s works are not generally marked by the wry, ironic wit that permeates O’Connor’s work, both writers are marked by what Thomas E. Kennedy, among others, has called an “existential Christian” sensibility.
“If They Knew Yvonne”
An early Dubus story, “If They Knew Yvonne,” first published in The North American Review in 1969 and collected both in Separate Flights and Selected Stories, displays this sensibility clearly. This story traces the development of a teenager, Harry Dugal, growing into manhood and caught between two powerful forces: his emerging sexuality and his need for the absolution and communion provided by the Catholic Church. Taught by the fathers at the Christian Brothers School to regard masturbation as “self-abuse” and a mortal sin, Harry, as he discovers his own inability to resist the urge to masturbate, goes to confession at every opportunity to confess his sins. Disgusted at his own weakness and at the sexual weakness that he discovers in his family around him, including his parents, whose store of condoms he discovers, and his sister Janet, who gets married while two months pregnant, the young Harry even considers emasculating himself at one point.
At the age of nineteen, however, he has his first sexual encounter with...
(The entire section is 1952 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Andre Dubus Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!