Discussion Questions for Frank O’Connor’s “My Oedipus Complex” (1950)
- Why is the story told from a child-narrator’s point of view? What is the impact of narrative voice on the story and on your response to the story?
- Why do you think Frank O’Connor prefers to integrate humor into the story?
- Make a comparison between Larry’s image of himself, his father and his mother at the beginning of the story and at the end of the story.
- Discuss the symbolic significance of the war imagery in the story.
- Discuss the symbolic significance of the enemy imagery in the story.
- What is your understanding of the adult world in “My Oedipus Complex” in relation to Larry’s world?
- In his depiction of Larry’s relationship with his mother and father, discuss how Frank O’Connor manages to demonstrate the shifts in mood in his story.
- In relation to the following quotation from the story, discuss Larry’s perception of God: “I began to think that God wasn’t quite what he was cracked up to be.” (You can find other references to God in the story to justify your view)
- According to Kate Murphy (1990), there are two types of world in Frank O’Connor’s stories: “the natural or normal worlds through which every person successively progresses in the process of growing up, and a number of ‘unnatural’ worlds which the individual elects or in which he arbitrarily finds himself” (p. 313). Discuss Murphy’s argument in relation to Frank O’Connor’s “My Oedipus Complex”. [Suggested reading: “Grappling with the world” By: Murphy, K.. Twentieth Century Literature, Fall90, Vol. 36 Issue 3, pp. 310-343]
- Comment on the following quotation: “I could not help feeling sorry for Father. I had been through it all myself, and even at that age I was magnanimous.”
- What is the significance of the model railway at the end of the story?
- According to Austrian physician Sigmund Freud, personality develops in childhood through a number of stages, which can be called “Freud’s Stages of Personality Development.” Do some research to find out what these stages are, at what age each stage occurs, what the characteristics of each stage of personality development are, and how fixation or lack of resolution in one stage will affect the child and lead to behavioral disorders in his/her adult life.
- Discuss to what extent Frank O’Connor’s story fits Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex.
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, January 2009