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First Confession Analysis

An Analysis of "The First Confession" By Frank O'Connor
by

Veronica Graham

on 17 November 2012

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Transcript of First Confession Analysis

An Analysis by Veronica Graham First Confession Summary Jackie is a young, seven year old boy who must make his first confession. Distressed by his grandmother recently moving in with his family, he is anxious about making a bad confession, which, he heard, has severe consequences. His older sister, Nora, is no sympathizer and is constantly bullying him both verbally and physically. When the day of his first confession arrives, he is taunted and teased by Nora but manages to ignore her. When it comes his turn to make his confession, he makes a fool of himself but manages to catch the eye of the priest, who has some wise words for him. Jackie's grandfather recently died and his grandmother moves in with his family. The grandmother makes life difficult for Jackie by openly favoring his older sister Nora, by lacking proper manners, and by drinking porter beer. Jackie tells of a time when his grandmother made the dinner and his older sister tried to force him to eat it. He hid under the table with a bread-knife and when Nora came after him, he "lashed out at her with the bread-knife" (Frank O'Connor). Not too many days after, Jackie is being prepared for his first confession and communion by an old woman named Ryan, who is extremely pious and tries tot frighten the young children under her tutelage into being good by speaking extensively about Hell and bad confessions, which, according to her, results in severe punishments. This part of the story is the exposition. It sets the tone of the story and gives the reader insight into what kind of person Jackie is and his thoughts and feelings towards the main even of the story, the confession. Plot: Exposition Once inside, Jackie starts speaking but is surprised when no one replies. Assuming that the shelf placed in the wall is where one is supposed to kneel, he climbs up and rests his knees on it. He startles the young priest who gets angry at the apparent lack of knowledge and carefulness. Jackie, surprised by the priest's irritated tone, falls off the shelf and tumbles through the door, ending up in the sanctuary of the church. Nora comes "scampering down the aisle... and [gives him] a clip across the ear" (Frank O'Connor). The priest directs his anger now at Nora and is furious that she would dare hit a child. This part of the story is the most intense and it leaves the reader wondering how Jackie will get out of the mess he made. Plot: Climax Reprimanding Nora, the priest promises Jackie that he will hear his confession after the rest of the congregation has left, leaving Jackie quite relieved. Once all the people have left, Jackie returns into the confessional and tells the priest of his plan to kill his grandmother and his attempt to kill Nora with the bread-knife. The priest is shocked by manages to talk the young boy out of such thoughts with kind, sympathetic words. Happy to finally meet "the most entertaining character [he'd] ever met in the religious line" (Frank O'Connor), Jackie is sorry once the confession is over. This part of the story is the most calming and finally lets the reader know Jackie's fate concerning the confession. Plot: Falling Action Echo The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893-1910) Plot: Rising Action Her words have a great influence over young Jackie, who know dreads the thought of making a bad confession so much that he fakes a toothache to get out of doing it with the other children under Ryan's guidance. However, Ryan makes sure that he goes on the following Saturday so that he can still join the class for communion. Unfortunately, Jackie's m other does not go with him but sends Nora in her place. All along the walk to the church, Nora smiles mournfully and speaks of her remorse for having to bring him to confession before throwing him through the chapel doors, yelling insults after him. They take their seats and Nora's turn quickly comes. She makes her confession properly and piously. Jackie's turn comes afterward and he enters the confessional, dread filling his heart. Once inside, Jackie starts speaking but is surprised when no one replies. Assuming that the shelf placed in the wall is where one is supposed to kneel, he climbs up and rests his knees on it. He startles the young priest who gets angry at the apparent lack of knowledge and carefulness. This part of the story creates tension by revealing Jackie's thoughts and feelings towards the main event of the story and by having friction him and his sister. Plot: Resolution Nora is waiting for him when comes out of the church and is shocked to hear how well the confession went. She is jealous of the priest's affinity for Jackie and states that being good, like herself, has no advantage and that she "might as well be a sinner like [Jackie]." (Frank O'Connor) This part of the story wraps everything up and ends the tale with an interesting touch of irony, leaving the reader content with how the story played out. Theme: Fear Fear is one of the themes explored in “First Confession” by Frank O’Connor. The author uses many different literary devices to develop this theme. One of the first devices that he uses is allusion. When Jackie and Nora are on their way to the church to make their confession, Jackie saw, “the sunlit hillsides beyond the valley of the river, which [he] saw in the gaps between the houses like Adam’s last glimpse of Paradise.” (Frank O’Connor) This allusion compares Adam’s last glimpse of paradise to what Jackie’s think is his last glimpse of the sun. Jackie is so afraid of making the confession that he thinks that he thinks he will be stuck under a dark cloud forever. Another literary device used is an analogy. Ryan, the old woman preparing Jackie for his confession, asks, “why [the children] were afraid of holding one finger-only one finger! - in a little candle flame for five minutes and not afraid of burning all over in roasting hot furnaces for all eternity.” (Frank O’Connor) She uses this analogy to instill fear into the children so that they have a motivation to behave. One other device used is metaphors. The narrator, Jackie, says, “[Nora] became the raging malicious devil she really was” (Frank O’Connor). Jackie does this to explain to the readers his fear of his older sister. Amplification is another literary device used. Jackie says, “I knew then I was lost, given up to eternal justice.” (Frank O’Connor) He then goes on to amplify this sentence by saying, “The door with the colored glass panels swung shut behind me, the sunlight went out and gave place to the shadow, and the wind whistled outside so that the silence within seemed to crackle like ice under my feet.” (Frank O’Connor) Jackie does this so that the reader can properly understand the amount of fear that Jackie is going through. “First Confession” by Frank O’Connor is filled with a large variety of literary devices that deeply develops the theme of fear. Characters: Jackie Jackie, a seven year old boy, is the protagonist of Frank O’Conner’s short story “First Confession. Over the course of the tale we learn a lot about the little boy through a variety of methods, three of which we will be looking at. The first method is thoughts. Because the tale is told in first person point of view, readers get a full view of Jackie’s thoughts and feelings. All the narrative is, in fact, his thoughts. “I was too honest...I thought it might look too greedy...I must have broken the whole Ten Commandments.” (Frank O’Connor) These three phrases show the reader that Jackie was honest, he cared about what people thought of him, and he didn’t think too highly of himself. The second method is speech. Jackie says, “I had it all arranged to kill my grandmother...I was thinking I could chop her up and carry it away in a barrow I have” (Frank O’Connor). These phrases show that Jackie has a tendency to overreact and that he is a very smart child for his age, planning and thinking ahead. The third method is actions. When Nora “came after [Jackie]... [he] [lashed] out at her with the bread-knife...I couldn’t even be bothered retorting.” (Frank O’Connor These two phrases show the reader that Jackie is a boy who tries to solve things physically because he isn’t usually taken seriously when he speaks and that he can have great self-control. Although the Frank O’Connor, the author, does not delve into Jackie’s physical attributes, he makes sure that the author has a firm understanding of Jackie’s personality and character. Conflicts Man vs Man: Point of View: First Person The short story “First Confession” written by Frank O’Connor is written in first person point of view. The narrator in this story is also the protagonist, whose name is Jackie. A large part of the story is spend inside of Jackie’s head learning about what he thinks about his family and his first confession. If the author had picked a different point of view, these intimate, detailed, and important thoughts and emotions would have been almost impossible to convey. Significance of Title The title of Frank O’Connor short story “First Confession” is clear and concise. It tells the reader what the tale is about and what to expect. It perfectly summarizes the main event of the story and its simplicity gives the anecdote a charming tone. Jackie's Characterization Jackie, a seven year old boy, is the protagonist of Frank O’Conner’s short story “First Confession. Over the course of the tale we learn a lot about the little boy through a variety of methods, three of which we will be looking at. The first method is thoughts. Because the tale is told in first person point of view, readers get a full view of Jackie’s thoughts and feelings. All the narrative is, in fact, his thoughts. “I was too honest...I thought it might look too greedy...I must have broken the whole Ten Commandments.” (Frank O’Connor) These three phrases show the reader that Jackie was honest, he cared about what people thought of him, and he didn’t think too highly of himself. The second method is speech. Jackie says, “I had it all arranged to kill my grandmother...I was thinking I could chop her up and carry it away in a barrow I have” (Frank O’Connor). These phrases show that Jackie has a tendency to overreact and that he is a very smart child for his age, planning and thinking ahead. The third method is actions. When Nora “came after [Jackie]... [he] [lashed] out at her with the bread-knife...I couldn’t even be bothered retorting.” (Frank O’Connor These two phrases show the reader that Jackie is a boy who tries to solve things physically because he isn’t usually taken seriously when he speaks and that he can have great self-control. Although the Frank O’Connor, the author, does not delve into Jackie’s physical attributes, he makes sure that the readers has a firm understanding of Jackie’s personality and character. From the beginning of “First Confession”, Frank O’Connor clearly shows that Jackie and his older sister, Nora, have a tumultuous relationship. Nora is obviously annoyed by Jackie for reasons undisclosed and she often bullies her younger brother both verbally and physically. On his part, Jackie does not attempt to reconcile with his sister nor does he wish it, often striking back at her physically. Throughout “First Confession” the rocky relationship between the brother and sister is one of the main conflicts. Man vs Self: Throughout “First Confession”, Jackie battles through his fear of making his first confession. He is scared of performing the Catholic necessity as he knows that he will have to admit to many sins that he would rather keep secret, such as his plan to murder his grandmother and his attempt to kill his older sister, Nora, with a bread-knife. Jackie gets over this fear once he meets the young sympathetic priest who listens to his confession without judging him or harshly reprimanding him. Jackie struggling with his fear of the confession is one of the central conflicts of “First Confession” by Frank O’Connor. Man vs Society: All throughout Frank O’Connor’s short story, “First Confession”, the protagonist, Jackie dreads making his first confession, which is mandatory for the Catholic and breaks all of the Ten Commandments which are extremely strict rules in the Catholic community. Jackie does not seem to know that everyone breaks all the commandments and believes that he is one of the worst sinners out there. Because of this guilt, Jackie fears making his confession and tries to get out of it by faking a toothache, not seeming to care that the confession is required. However, Jackie still makes his confession, albeit reluctantly, and gets over his distaste for this Catholic requirement and seems to understand at the end of the story that his sins do not greatly outweigh others’. For most of “First Confession”, a short story by Frank O’Connor, Jackie, the protagonist tries to defy the Catholic faith by resisting making a confession. Bibliography "The Scream." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream>. O'Conner, Frank. "The First Confession." The First Confession. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ireland-information.com/firstconfession.htm>. "Literary Devices | Literary Terms." Literary Devices | Literary Terms. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. <http://literary-devices.com/>.
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