The Genius by Frank O’Connor Essay

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The Genius by Frank O’Connor

The boy’s personality and his intelligence are swiftly established in the opening paragraph. His mother is presented as being a strong influence on him and appears as a kind of ‘ally’ against the rough children – ‘savages’ as she describes them – that live and play in the area. It is clear that she encourages him to regard himself as
‘different’ and separate from them, but it is equally obvious that he is not anxious to associate with them anyway. He describes himself as
“a cissy by conviction” and says that he regarded the idea of fighting as both unattractive and ‘dangerous’. He avoids rough games and prefers the company of girls to boys only because “they don’t fight so much”. Religion
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Although the story is supposedly written from the point of view of the boy himself, the tongue-in-cheek humour is extremely adult. The adult writer describes how the boy’s desire to become ‘an explorer’ is expressed through his journeys that take him a whole mile from his home, the findings of which are recorded in a book called by the very grand title of ‘The Voyages of Johnson Martin’! Similarly, the adult writer communicates much more sympathy with the long-suffering father who stares ‘moodily’ at the son whose behaviour and whose interests he does not understand than he does with the little boy who takes himself so very seriously and is determined to be “a proper genius”. In fact, the writer gently mocks the boy’s very elevated opinion of himself by repeatedly referring to him as a ‘genius’. Thus, if the story is autobiographical, he is laughing at the serious and pretentious child he used to be.

The incident of the ‘lame leg’ is a particularly interesting one because the writer uses it as a means of presenting the relationships that exist between the boy and both his mother and his father. The
Greek word ‘Oedipus’ means ‘swollen foot’ and, in Greek mythology,
Oedipus was a Greek prince who married his mother and murdered his father. The strong attachment of a son to his mother combined with unconscious feelings of

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