Edwin O'Connor Anthony West - Essay

Anthony West

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Edwin O'Connor's "The Last Hurrah" … arrives festooned with pre-publication laurels…. In view of all this, one is tempted to raise one's hat silently to the cortege and to let it pass on its way to oblivion with the best possible grace. The temptation is all the greater because it is difficult to discuss the book without infringing on a number of taboos that can be indicated by saying that its main subjects are the nature of city government in the New England states of the Union, the role of the Irish in municipal politics, and the relations between city machines and the Catholic Church. The approach chosen is to bring two clean-cut young persons, Adam and Maeve (get it? Innocents), into this thorny area by having them taken under the wing of the boy's uncle, old Frank Skeffington, as he launches his campaign for reelection to the mayoralty of a big Eastern-seaboard city. He loses the election, because he is an old-fashioned kind of political boss and times have changed, but in the course of his campaign Adam and Maeve discover what a charming, lovable, and heart-warming boss he is, what kindly, simple chaps—great-hearted, too, in their small way—his ward bosses and heelers are, and what a little thing peculation from the public funds really is, after all. (p. 121)

[From] the starting thesis—that a kindly thief is better than a plain greedy one—the line of thought advances to the conclusion that because some...

(The entire section is 442 words.)