Edna O'Brien Short Fiction Analysis
Edna O’Brien has written short stories throughout her long career. “Come into the Drawing Room, Doris” (retitled “Irish Revel” in The Love Object collection) first appeared in The New Yorker, on October 6, 1962. “Cords,” published as “Which of Those Two Ladies Is He Married To?” in The New Yorker, on April 25, 1964, adumbrates many of the aspects of loss and missed connections, which are O’Brien’s constant themes. The missed connections are most frequently between mothers and daughters, and between women and men. O’Brien is at her most persuasively graphic when her protagonists are clearly Irish women, at home, in a vanished Ireland whose society as a whole she re-creates and often increasingly indicts most convincingly.
The question above, which forms the original title of “Cords,” is posed in the story by Claire’s scandalized, rural, Irish mother on a London visit to her sexually active, editor, lapsed Catholic, poet-daughter. The dinner guests are a husband, his pregnant wife Marigold, and his mistress Pauline—which grouping elicits the mother’s question. The newer title, “Cords,” more aptly focuses attention on the constrictive mother-daughter bond, which is at the center of this story. The conflict is effectively rendered; no final judgment is made on who is to blame. The Catholic, self-sacrificing mother, who masochistically sews without a thimble, is a...
(The entire section is 2460 words.)
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