Frank O’Connor was a masterful short-story writer. He was a realist who closely observed his characters and their world. He was not a pitiless realist, however, but he always seemed to have great sympathy for his characters, even those who insisted on putting themselves in absurd situations. It follows that one of his major techniques was humor. There is a place for humor in nearly all of his works, including those that border on tragedy. His stories tend to deal with a domestic rather than a public world, and the characters make up what he has called a “submerged population.”
Structurally, the stories are simple. O’Connor likes to use a sudden reversal to bring about the necessary change in the plot. The plots tend to be simple and the reconciliation of the conflict is always very clear. One of the special devices he employed to give the stories some distinction is his use of a narrator. Whether the narrator is a child or an old priest, there is always a distinctive voice telling the reader the story. This voice has some of O’Connor’s special qualities: warmth, humor, sympathy, and a realistic appraisal of the circumstances.