‘Innocence’ by Sean O’Faolain

Innocence by Sean O’Faolain, 1948

The magic trick:

Writing a story about confession while never quite confessing

“Innocence” is a heart-wrenching bit of brilliance over five short pages of text. In it, the narrator bears his soul – but only to some degree. He tells the reader exactly how certain events made him feel, right down to the rawest emotion. But he never tells us exactly what those events were. What was his sin? We can guess. We probably can make a very educated guess. But we never know for sure. It’s a very effective little device. We wind up with a story about confession that never confesses. And that’s quite a trick on O’Faolain’s part. 

The selection:

In the streets the building stood dark and wet against the after-Christmas pallor of the sky. High up over the city there was one tiny star. It was as bright and remote as lost innocence. The blank windows that held the winter sky were sullen. The wet cement walls were black. I walked around for hours.

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