Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The greatest feature of this story is O’Connor’s astonishingly accurate recollection of the feelings and perceptions of the child as he tries to make sense of the world; to run his own life, often unsuccessfully; and to understand the strange and bewildering ways of the adults who surround and control him. The extraordinary frustrations that the child encounters in these undertakings is most tellingly recalled by the adult Larry Delaney as he relates in detail his childhood efforts to understand and capture in his own person the mysterious and elusive charm that his father held for his mother. Accordingly, he mimicked his father by walking around the house with a pipe in his mouth and by making up news items to read to his mother out of the newspaper, all to no avail.

The futility of these efforts to regain his special position in the household takes its toll on him. He changes from a child who wakes up in the morning “feeling myself rather like the sun, ready to illumine and rejoice” to a displaced person who wakes up lonely and cheerless, awaiting the awakening of his parents to give warmth to his life: “I didn’t feel in the least like the sun; instead, I was bored and so very, very cold!” In time, however, his egocentrism is replaced by understanding of his father (“I realized he was jealous too”) and finally by sympathy, the sympathy of a boy who is taking an early step toward adulthood, one who is able to make the first overtures of...

(The entire section is 469 words.)