Christmas Morning by Frank O’Connor, 1936
The magic trick:
Combination of extreme literary effects
This story Is so amazing. Among its many gifts: the story hits the reader with wildly contrasting extreme literary effects. At one moment it is laugh-out-loud funny, the next (particularly the furiously paced ending unravel) will make you cry. Larry, the narrator, is a remarkable combination of extremes too. He is incredibly street smart for his young age – already running with a local gang and knowing exactly how to manipulate his speech and appearance to con adults into sympathy (and money). But he combines that with a typical childlike innocence – still believing in Santa Claus. It’s a wonderful combination of moods and feelings. And that’s quite a trick on O’Connor’s part.
Then I got the inspiration, as it seemed to me, direct from Heaven. Suppose I took the gun and gave Sonny the book! Sonny would never be any good in the gang: he was fond of spelling, and a studious child like him could learn a lot of spellings from a book like mine. As he hadn’t seen Santa any more than I had, what he hadn’t seen wouldn’t grieve him. I was doing no harm to anyone; in fact, if Sonny only knew, I was doing him a good turn which he might have cause to thank me for later. That was one thing I was always keen on; doing good turns.
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