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An Explication of Frank O’Connor’s “First Confession”

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    An Explication of Frank O’Connor’s “First Confession”

    Religious dogma and its customs are so fixed in stone that the practice of such is not open to question. A pious person simply follows the established traditions of his church on account of pure faith and belief.  The same blind adherence is true with a young and innocent child or perhaps even more so. Frank O’Connor’s short story “First Confession” tells the story of such an uninitiated and naïve boy who readily accepts the tenets of his religion literally and with such fear and nervous apprehension at that.

    The story is told in the point of view of the child who thus begins to narrate his ultimate experience in the confession box by giving a brief preview of his life thus far. He expresses his dislike for his grandmother to whom he blames most as the main reason for committing sins. To wit: “I must have broken the whole ten commandments, all on account of that old woman” (O’Connor). Old, decrepit yet mordant, the grandmother figure in the eyes of the narrating child most probably signifies the monolithic representation of the dogmas of the church.

    Likewise, his keen observation with the way his older sister is able to put up pleasant personalities to other people and never to him smacks of the brand of hypocrisy that a few religious persons are known for: “God, the hypocrisy of women! Her eyes were lowered, her head was bowed, and her hands were joined very low down on her stomach, and she walked up the aisle to the side altar looking like a saint” (O’Connor). Lastly, the narration details his experiences with his teachers who make up stories that scare if not scar a young boy’s mind for life. An explicit example would be the consequences of being unable to make a confession before a person passes which eventually mortified the boy (O’Connor).

    Indeed, “First Confession” is replete with symbolism, imagery and hyperboles. These figures of speech indicate the amount of imagination a young person uses as a defense mechanism when confronted with something that is confusing and complex such as religion. The apparent incomprehensibility of the practice of religion coupled with a boy’s honest yet naïve, not to say comic, interpretations of God results, into a fanfare of grossly exaggerated conclusions. For instance, the boy believes that “in the darkness it was a matter between God and me, and He had all the odds” (O’Connor). As such, he was compelled to spill out every detail of his sins even those that should have not been said to the amusement of the priest. Thus, it is fair to say that the dark humour the story presents in the case of the seven-year old child reflects the author’s critical skepticism if not delight in the practices of religion.

    Quotes:

    The author’s attitude toward religious hypocrisy is clear. The story starts with “All the trouble began when my grandfather died and my grand-mother – my father’s mother – came to live with us” (O’Connor) thus placing the blame outside of the self. The boy is not taking personal responsibility for his own participation in his sins.  “I must have broken the whole ten commandments, all on account of that old woman” (O’Connor). Skeptics of the practices of organized religion often find hypocrisy in the blame game of confession. The hypocrisy continues in “God, the hypocrisy of women! Her eyes were lowered, her head was bowed, and her hands were joined very low down on her stomach, and she walked up the aisle to the side altar looking like a saint” (O’Connor) where the author’s tone is evident. He abhors the outward show of piousness when the boy knows how his sister really behaves.  In addition, the boy not only feels the hypocrisy, but also the inefficacy in prayer and confession because he believes that “in the darkness it was a matter between God and me, and He had all the odds” (O’Connor).

    Analysis of the Thematic Quality of Thomas Whitecloud’s “Blue Winds Dancing”

    “Blue Winds Dancing” by Thomas Whitecloud tells the experience of a young Native-American who has spent months away from home as a college student. Presently, he is on his way to meet his family and friends, and to the place where he feels he truly belongs. The story is rich with vivid description of nature and the world out in the open and in the wild, in contrast to the cold-concrete and gray indifference of the urban and civilized life. Indeed, the imagery and metaphors used to describe the narrator’s nostalgia for his home are at once resplendent, inspiring and humbling. Likewise, what is notable in the story is how the author attempts at a social criticism of the domineering ways of Western man as compared to the simple and good-natured attributes of the Native-Americans, by one who feels in captivity, especially the narrator, who belongs to the latter group.

                In Whitecloud’s short story, the reader is treated with the rare and significant thematic play of contrasting worlds. One is presented alive and fresh while the other appears dull, oppressive and lifeless. The former refers to the Indian native lands to which the narrator claims full universal ownership as a Native-American and as a human being as a whole. The latter refers to a sense of captivity, routine and apathy. The narrator cites, for instance, that his home had “no classes where men talk and talk and then stop now and then to hear their own words come back to them from the students” (Whitecloud) and that there was “no hysterical preparing for life until that life is half over; no anxiety about one’s place in the thing they call Society” (Whitecloud). True enough the narrator has that distinct personal advantage of living life in both worlds. Such a vantage point resulted in the proper appraisal of each world and how much he misses one and despises the other.

                 In addition, throughout the short story, a feeling of vacillation is evident in the narrator. On one hand, he is already sick and tired of the white man’s standards, which is only made worse by the fact that his people are desperately trying to emulate such standards in vain. On the other hand, owing to the fact that he has experienced a life in a civilized society, in a manner of speaking, a healthy amount of appreciation for who he truly is begins to well up inside of him. In the same vein, at the end of the story, he makes a final distinction between the two cultures: “I am so used to white people that it seems strange so many people could be together without someone talking” yet “these Indians are happy because they are together, and because the night is beautiful outside and the music is beautiful” (Whitecloud). Note also the contemplative realization of the narrator saying that “my feet begin to lift to the rhythm, and I looked out beyond the walls into the night and see the lights. I am happy. It is beautiful. I am home” (Whitecloud). The significance of these statements goes down to the very heart of the narrative which is to bring out the sentiment of one who is finally content with his true home.

    Quotes:

    Whitecloud has chronicled his youthful quest for his place in the universe. His “hysterical preparing for life” took him from one world to another, where he thought he should be. His home had no university to which he could matriculate, earn a degree and get a good job to make his way in the world. Yet he comes to find that his home had “no classes where men talk and talk and then stop now and then to hear their own words come back to them from the students” and that there was “no hysterical preparing for life until that life is half over; no anxiety about one’s place in the thing they call Society” (Whitecloud).  After being away from home he found himself  “so used to white people that it seems strange so many people could be together without someone talking” yet upon coming home, the comparison helped him decide his true place in the universe.  “These Indians are happy because they are together, and because the night is beautiful outside and the music is beautiful” and he realizes that his “feet begin to lift to the rhythm, and I looked out beyond the walls into the night and see the lights. I am happy. It is beautiful. I am home” (Whitecloud).

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    An Explication of Frank O’Connor’s “First Confession”. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/an-explication-of-frank-oconnors-first-confession/

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