In the story of “First Confession” Frank O’Connor has us look at the story from the boy, Jackie’s, point of view. Jackie is a seven year-old boy who must go to make his first confession before he can take his first communion. The story takes places in various settings that include Jackie’s house, Jackie’s school where Mrs. Ryan would come and give her warnings against hell to the children, the Chapel where Jackie and Nora have to make their first confessions and the confession booth inside the chapel.
He is terrified because Mrs. Ryan, who has taught the school kids about confession, has made Jackie believe he has broken all of the Ten Commandments. Worst of all, he must confess to the priest that he has made plans to kill his paternal grandmother because she favors his sister, Nora, and her lack of city manners that drives him nuts. This story relies on his characterization, the point if view, and how the story relates to us today.
It all began when Jackie’s grandfather died and his grandmother on his father’s side moved in with him and the family. He was disgusted by his grandmother’s habits, typical old drunk lady with gross habits, which lead to feelings of hatred towards her. The tension comes out in the sibling rivalry between Jackie and Nora when Nora always gets money from grandmother out of her pension and Jackie does not. The mother usually sides with Jackie. By telling the story from Jackie’s point of view, it makes you become sympathetic to Jackie’s plight.
The family was raised in the beliefs of organized religion, probably catholic because the time for Nora’s and Jackie’s first confession was approaching. This was when the story reached its peak of Nora’s annoying behaviors. Nora was saying things to torment Jackie because she knew he was really terrified of doing his first confession because of Ryan, whose job it was to prepare the children for their first confession. She talked to the children about hell and hardly mentioned heaven. As the day approached, Nora continued to torment Jackie.
Nora is no doubt a flat character. She is a snob from beginning to end. When the day came for the children to do their first confession, Jackie was really nervous. This became the turning point of Jackie’s character. When it came time for him to go inside the confession booth, Jackie sat on the shelf where you are supposed to place your elbows. When the father came in to start the confession session, he was appalled by the fact that Jackie was positioned like this in the confession booth.
Jackie, being overwhelmed with nervousness, was startled at the father’s voice when he shouted in confusion as to why he was positioned so and fell out of the booth. This was when Nora’s true colors were finally seen by somebody and what better person that the father. She yelled at him in public because she felt that he disgraced her. Father saw right through her and did the same as she did to Jackie. The priest allows Jackie to do the face to face confession when Jackie falls out of the booth and the priest comes out to see Nora beating Jackie for making her look like an idiot.
He yells at Nora by saying, “How dare you hit the child like that, you little vixen. ” (Page 357). Once Jackie did his confession, it was not as bad as he thought it would be. The priest was not like Ms. Ryan who was a crazy hell preaching freak. He helps Jackie with his confession by allowing him not to do the confession in the traditional way, with a wall separating the priest and the confessor, but in a face to face way that makes Jackie feel more comfortable.
There was universal symbolism when Jackie stated, “Outside, after the shadow of the church, the sunlight was like the roaring of waves on a beach; it dazzled me; and when the frozen silence melted and I heard the screech of trams on the road to my heart soared…” (Page 358), meaning that when he came out of the church, this was a new feeling and endorsement of his morality, which would explain the turning point of his character. After Jackie tells her about his confession she still doesn’t cut him any credit and labels him a sinner and says she might as well be one like him because it doesn’t do anybody any good to do good.
She tells Jackie at the end of the story, “…And he only gave you three Hail Marys?… Lord God, some people have all the luck! ‘Tis no advantage to anybody trying to be good. I might just as well be a sinner like you. ” (Page 359), which would explain how she is a flat character. The character of Jackie can be used as a reminder to us, and the realization that the world changes. O’Connor uses the character of Gran to show this to us and Jackie. Jackie is the protagonist of the story.
O’Connor also uses men clergy as central characters to show us the irony in the story that the religion that the women in Jackie’s life are a lot more kind and gentler than the men who actually dispense the Sacraments. The round character is the main character Jackie. In the beginning of the story he is very negative and hateful towards his sister and his grandmother. He was always thinking about hell and thought that when he dies, his soul would come back and leave marks on his mother’s furniture.
When he talks to the father during his confession, it seemed like he had so much negativity that he was venting and the father’s responses made it seem as if he’s just a kid going through this silly little phase of thoughts of killing his grandmother and his sister. After his confession, he feels relieved and confident because when he leaves the chapel he no longer believed in that crazy theory of him coming back and leaving marks on his mother’s furniture.