Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Legal Aid” is precisely what this story is about. In keeping with O’Connor’s use of humor throughout the story, it is Roarer Cooper, the council for the Flynns, who works hardest to help Delia Carty and to arrange her marriage with Tom Flynn. One would expect the parents to work out the marriage, or the parish priest, but when all else fails, it is the legal profession that straightens out this matter. O’Connor uses his frequent humor to remind readers that the human situation indeed is often comic. Delia might never have gotten into trouble if she had not been exposed to the O’Gradys, for, as the narrator comments: “The whole family was slightly touched.” Of Tom Flynn’s attempts to justify himself to God, the narrator says: “Between lipstick, sofas, and tay in the parlor, Tom put it up to God that it was a great wonder she hadn’t got him into worse trouble.”

As he often does, O’Connor makes skillful use of dialogue to convey the action and the characterization in the story. Readers are allowed to sit in on a variety of revealing conversations among each of the principal characters. Delivered in the charming, everyday speech of the Irish countryside, these conversations reveal all the key points of the story. Arranged in simple, chronological order, the story proceeds swiftly to the courtroom scene, followed by only one brief paragraph of epilogue. It is because O’Connor has characterized his people so clearly that the reader can accept the happy ending without finding it implausible.