‘The Sugawn Chair’ by Sean O’Faolain

The Sugawn Chair by Sean O’Faolain, 1947

The magic trick:

Expert – and efficient – use of an object to represent the story’s entire meaning

I think I like O’Faolain best when he’s reflecting on the lessons of childhood. Certainly this is one of his very best.

The titular chair is the key here. Functionally, it sets the entire story off, triggering in our narrator a memory from his past. It serves as a symbol for the characters themselves – in the story itself – representing (especially to the mother) the ache of a pastoral childhood lost and a pastoral future never to be. And of course it works very well as a literary symbol for the reader to attach any number of meanings to – the frame of the chair still around but stripped of any use by its missing seat.

That qualifies as pretty efficient and effective use of an object in a story.

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

The selection:

This was a game of which he, she, and I never got tired, a fairy tale that was so alluring it did not matter a damn that they had not enough money to buy a window box, let alone a farm of land.

“Do you remember that little place,” she would say, “that was going last year down at Nantenan?”

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