In My Oedipus Complex by Frank O’Connor we have the theme of change and conflict. Taken from his My Oedipus Complex and Other Stories collection the story is set in small town Ireland and O’Connor skillfully and playfully intertwines the lives of the four characters (Larry, Sonny, Mother and Father). Just like in First Confession, the story is told and written with humour. The story begins as the First World War is ending and Larry is enjoying himself and his life, with just him and his mother, though he does suggest to his mother that they could buy a baby. O’Connor highlighting for the reader Larry’s innocence, he would like a brother or a sister, just like some of the neighbours had. There are occasions when his father is on leave from the army and Larry is no longer the centre of attention, something that annoys him, as he cannot understand the attraction his mother has for his father. As Larry is only five, O’Connor is able to write of him with a wonderful naivety that is easy for the reader to understand. But things soon take on a grim reality for Larry when the war ends and his father returns home for good. Again things have changed for Larry and he is no longer able to hop into his mother’s bed in the morning like he was when his father was away. The reader is told the Larry and his mother had prayed that his father would return from the war, but now that he has, Larry has lost faith in God. He never imagined how bad life could be with his father back in the house and as a result believes that God had codded him. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to work out in Larry’s eyes. In Larry’s eyes, he was to remain the centre of attention, but that is no longer the case.
Similarly when his father takes him into town for walks, Larry is annoyed that he stops and talks to other men, though Larry describes them as old men like his father. Unlike when his mother takes him for walks and they stop, the tantrums that Larry would take do not force his father to keep on walking. And they are walking everywhere were his father wants to walk, which Larry isn’t too pleased about.
Still miffed at his mother for telling him that it would be better for him to stay in his own bed in the mornings and not come in and wake his father up, Larry still proceeds to go into his parents’ bedroom, and deliberately wake his father up by jumping into the bed and talking, or on one occasion by kicking him. His father isn’t used to him and he threatens to smack Larry if he doesn’t stop coming into the room and talking. Brazenly Larry tells his father to ‘Shut up’, which causes his father to get out of bed and smack him. Though O’Connor has Larry’s father only tapping him, Larry makes the most of it and screams. He also swears to himself that his father and him will be sworn enemies, both vying for his mother’s attention.
Larry starts to mimic his father, by pretending to read the newspaper like his father, something he knows his mother likes. He also starts walking around the house with his father’s pipe in his mouth, dribbling all over it, which causes his mother to scold him. Something Larry doesn’t understand because he always thought the smell of the pipe and the smoke was attractive. In a final attempt to get his mother’s affections Larry tells her that when he is older that he is going to marry her and they will have babies. To Larry’s surprise his mother tells him that there is a baby on the way and soon after Sonny is born.
Larry doesn’t like Sonny either when he is born, because all he does is sleep and get his mother’s attention. And when he’s not sleeping he’s crying. So Larry tries to make sure that Sonny sleeps at the same time as everyone else in the house, at night time. Any time he sees Sonny asleep during the day he pinches him and wakes him up, O’Connor adding sibling rivalry to the story. So unhappy is Larry that he tells his father that if another baby comes into the house, he is leaving. This brings Larry and his father closer together, not because the father agrees with what Larry has said, but because his father is having problem with Sonny as well.
My Oedipus Complex ends with Larry walking up one morning, and feeling someone getting into his bed. At first he thinks it’s his mother and that she has come to her senses and that things have gone back to what they were before his father came home. But it’s not his mother; it’s his father, who has moved beds as he can’t sleep because of Sonny’s crying. Though Larry had sworn to make his father his enemy, he now sees him as an ally and tells his father to wrap his arms around him. To Larry’s surprise his father does, and even more surprising to Larry, that Christmas his father buys him a nice model railway. Father and son become friends.