Close reading and analysis of "My Oedipus Complex" by Frank O'Connor

Essay by PhilipFeCollege, UndergraduateA-, March 2003

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"My Oedipus Complex" is the story of a young boy named Larry who is forced to confront issues of jealousy and confusion. Larry is forced to confront these issues when his father, who he does not know that well, comes home from the war. The "Oedipus Complex" is a term coined by Sigmund Freud in which a male develops an excessive love for his mother usually accompanied by a hatred for his father. This is extremely evident throughout the story.

In the beginning, the young boy displays signs of excitement and satisfaction when his father arrives unexpectedly on his visits from the war. His "pleasant musty smell" and "Santa Claus entrances and exits" interest him. As long as his daily routines with his mother are uninterrupted, he remains in a state of happiness. Larry lacked friends his age because the only person he spent time with was his mother.

As a result he creates Mrs. Left and Mrs. Right to discuss his problems and to fight boredom with. The day his father came home from the war everything changed for Larry. He finds his father altogether less interesting when he arrives home. His father is not wearing his uniform and does not have any souvenirs from the war. At this point in the story the reader can actually understand why the story is called "My Oedipus Complex." Larry begins to show signs of a severe case of the complex. It is at this point where the competition for attention begins. This is the first time in his life without having the full attention of his mother and for the first time in his life he feels neglected. Larry does not know that his mother has to share her love and affection between him and his father. He also does not realize that his father is having a hard time right now finding a job to support the family. Larry develops a hatred for his father because of this. He is constantly waking his father up and fighting with him. Larry even believes that he will end up marrying his mother to get her away from his father. However, soon after his father's return from the war a new son is born into the family. After this event Larry changes his focus from his father to his new brother, Sonny. He now had to compete with his younger brother for his mother's attention. This is a competition that he will not win. The birth of his brother in the end will bring him closer to the man he "hated" for so long. Sonny consumed all of his mother's attention; she had not time for Larry and her husband. Larry is confined in his own little world throughout most of the story. He is a very naïve and selfish character. He has no sense of what is going on around him.