Style and Technique
As the title implies, the story centers on the relationship between Doctor Malloy and Jimmy. The two serve as doubles; both have multifaceted and unpredictable natures, emphasized by the variety of names by which they are known (for example, “Mike Malloy,” “the dad,” “Daddy,” and “Poppa” are a few of the names used for Doctor Malloy; “James,” “Jim,” and “Jimmy” are all used for his son). After his introduction, Doctor Malloy is unseen for most of the story, yet John O’Hara succeeds in keeping him continually in view by having Jimmy compare his father to Doctor Myers, and by having Jimmy and other characters reminisce about him in his absence.
O’Hara was well known for his exacting attention to dialogue and dialect (he believed that if fictional characters did not “talk right,” they would not become “real people” for the reader), and “The Doctor’s Son” is an excellent example of his use of dialogue to illuminate character. Each of the characters (and there are many, from several different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds) has a distinctive way of speaking; at the same time, although they have individual idiosyncrasies, they often use dialect that links them to larger groups. The natural conversation both gives insight into the characters involved and enhances the sense of reality found in “The Doctor’s Son.”