‘First Confession’ by Frank O’Connor


First Confession by Frank O’Connor, 1939

The magic trick:

Pushing a coming-of-age story on toward what appears to be a poignant, meaningful moment, but only delivering more comedy

Today begins a week of Frank O’Connor stories on the SSMT site. He is the king of the coming-of-age story, and one look at today’s title, “First Confession,” lets you know that this story falls into that category.

Often, coming-of-age stories are funny. The maturation process usually involves a child moving from ignorance to wisdom, and that lesson-learning is ripe for comedy. Ultimately though, once the punchline fades, the coming-of-age story resonates with poignancy.

Ah, but not so with “First Confession.”

“First Confession” is hilarious from its opening scene to its closing irony. I kept waiting for the lesson learned, the poignant, tidy end-of-the-sitcom-episode moment.

Nope. It never arrives. I love that.

And that’s quite a trick on O’Connor’s part.

The selection:

“Oh, you dirty little caffler! “she said. “I might have known you’d do it. I might have known you’d disgrace me. I can’t leave you out of my sight for one minute.”

Before I could even get to my feet to defend myself she bent down and gave me a clip across the ear. This reminded me that I was so stunned I had even forgotten to cry, so that people might think I wasn’t hurt at all, when in fact I was probably maimed for life. I gave a roar out of me.

“What’s all this about? “the priest hissed, getting angrier than ever and pushing Nora off me. “How dare you hit the child like that, you little vixen?”

“But I can’t do my penance with him, father,” Nora cried, cocking an outraged eye up at him.


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