Frank O'Connor

Start Free Trial

Other Literary Forms

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Frank O’Connor was a prolific writer who wrote in nearly every literary genre. His published books include poems, translations of Irish poetry, plays, literary criticism, autobiographies, travel books, and essays. His two novels—The Saint and Mary Kate (1932) and Dutch Interior (1940)—are interesting complements to the many short-story collections, for which he is best known.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Alexander, James D. “Frank O’Connor in The New Yorker, 1945-1967.” Eire-Ireland 30 (1995): 130-144. Examines how O’Connor changed his narrative style during the twenty years he was writing for The New Yorker—contracting the presence of a narrator to a voice and developing a double-leveled view of “experienced innocence” in his young boy stories. Argues that O’Connor created a genial persona in his stories that diverted attention from his more serious subject matter of Irish social problems.

Bordewyk, Gordon. “Quest for Meaning: The Stories of Frank O’Connor.” Illinois Quarterly 41 (Winter, 1978): 37-47. Discusses O’Connor’s concern with fundamental qualities of everyday life and his sense of wonder in the mundane in four major groups of stories of war, religion, youth, and marriage. Examines how the search for meaning changes the lives of characters in these four groups.

Davenport, Gary T. “Frank O’Connor and the Comedy of Revolution.” Eire-Ireland 8 (Summer, 1973): 108-116. Davenport analyzes some of O’Connor’s early stories on the Irish Civil War and points out the persistence of comedy even in tragic situations. He claims that O’Connor sees revolution as farcical.

Evans, Robert C., and Richard Harp, eds. Frank O’Connor: New Perspectives. West Cornwall, Conn.: Locust Hill Press, 1998. Fresh, thoughtful interpretations of O’Connor’s works.

McKeon, Jim. Frank O’Connor: A Life. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1998. A brief, readable life of O’Connor; comments on the biographical sources of some of the short stories; discusses O’Connor’s literary career.

Matthews, James H. Frank O’Connor. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1976. This book is an excellent introduction to O’Connor’s fiction since it deals with the social context of the stories and the critical theory underlying them. Part of the Irish Writers series.

Matthews, James H. Voices: A Life of Frank O’Connor. New York: Atheneum, 1983.

Neary, Michael. “The Inside-Out World in Frank O’Connor’s Stories.” Studies in Short Fiction 30 (Summer, 1993): 327-336. Discusses O’Connor’s use of smallness to accent the collision between the world of the self and the vast world outside. Discusses “The Story Teller” as the most emphatic embodiment of...

(This entire section contains 556 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

this tension in O’Connor’s stories, for the protagonist confronts characters who refuse to take her quest for magic and meaning seriously.

Renner, Stanley. “The Theme of Hidden Powers: Fate vs. Human Responsibility in ‘Guests of the Nation.’” Studies in Short Fiction 27 (Summer, 1990): 371-378. Argues that the story’s moral design emphasizes the existence of mysterious “hidden powers” or forces of chance and fate that control human lives. Suggests that the moral judgment of the story is against the protagonist-teller Bonaparte, who contributes to the world’s brutality by mistakenly believing people have no choice.

Steinman, Michael. Frank O’Connor at Work. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990. A study of O’Connor’s life and works.

Tomory, William M. Frank O’Connor. Boston: Twayne, 1980. An introductory book on O’Connor that briefly sketches his life and then gives an overview of his work. Tomory touches on a few stories, but most of the analysis is on themes and character types.

Wohlgelernter, Maurice. Frank O’Connor: An Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. A full critical study on O’Connor’s fiction available. The author is especially good at articulating O’Connor’s theory of the story and in applying those concepts to individual short stories.


Critical Essays