My Oedipus Complex

by Frank O'Connor

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What is the serious theme proposed in Frank O'Connor's "My Oedipus Complex"?

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Although the story is told through a child's eyes, it contains the universal theme that eventually every boy must learn to be separated from his mother. Usually, the person responsible for the separation is the father. From a child's viewpoint, this is terribly unfair. Larry, the protagonist of the story, must learn this lesson fairly late in life. During his early childhood, he has his mother all to himself because his father is off to war. When his father returns, he loses the full attention of his mother and cannot, as a child, understand why his mother prefers his father to him. He and his father become "enemies, open and avowed.” However, one his younger brother is born, Larry is allowed to see his dispossession though his father's eyes. Now Larry's mother's attentions are taken by Sonny, his younger brother. The father now feels "dethroned". It is through this common "displacement" that Larry and his father come to some kind of reconciliation. Larry recognizes that this is a common cycle of life and says,

“I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Father. I had been through it all myself, and even at that age I was magnanimous.” 

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