Monday, 9 March 2015

Man of the House

Sullivan is a little boy of ten years. It’s a small family of two persons with meager means. The mother is working and the son like any other boy of his age goes to school. He is a loving son and for the mother her son is as good as gold itself.

The story starts with a terrible sound of constant coughing of the sick mother which wakes up the little boy and he runs downstairs to look into the matter. There he finds his mother in a critical condition collapsing in an armchair holding her sides. Totally distressed she was trying to light a fire to make tea for the boy but the smoke generated by the wet sticks worsened her cough. Worried son immediately takes charge of everything. He stops her from going to work and makes her lie in the bed.

Dutiful Sullivan makes tea and toast for her. He immediately decides that instead of going to school he would stay at home to look after his mother and mind home affairs. Systematic boy heats up another kettle of water and cleans up the breakfast mess. Then he comes to his mother to make a list to shop for dinner. Caring Sullivan is worried and wants to call a doctor for his mother but thrifty mother declines his wish as she is afraid that the doctor would send her to hospital. To cheer up the frightened son the affectionate mother tries to pretend that she is fit and fine but their neighbor Miss Minnie Ryan has all the doubts that she might be suffering from pneumonia. She advises him to give his mother some hot whiskey mixed with a squeeze of lemon in it to comfort her.

Determined Sullivan goes to the public house for the first time to get whiskey. Although scared he does not lose courage and overcomes his fear. Whiskey does not work that well and whole night depressed Sullivan could not sleep due to the terrible coughing of his mother. She keeps on rambling badly while talking. In the morning bewildered Sullivan heads to call the doctor from the distant dispensary. Before that he goes to get a ticket from the house of a Poor Law Guardian to save the doctor’s fees. The organized boy tidies the house and keeps ready the basin of water, soap and a clean towel for the doctor. Much to their relief the doctor doesn’t advise to hospitalize the mother instead he prescribes a cough syrup for her.

Reliant Sullivan’s sincerity and concern earns all the praise of Miss Ryan and the doctor for him. Again the poor boy sets off with a bottle to get the medicine from the dispensary situated at a distant place. On the way he comes across a cathedral. With complete devotion he prays for his mother’s quick recovery in his heart and makes up his mind to spend his only penny to light a candle in the church when he would finish his task. At dispensary he meets a little girl Dooley who has come to get medicine for her sister. The girl is very clever and talkative. Anguished Sullivan enjoys her company after going through such terrible times. On way back the innocent boy spends his penny on sweets which they both enjoyed. Dooly is a cunning girl. She incites Sullivan to taste the sweet cough syrup of his mother. Confused boy gives way to temptation. Both of them relish it immensely. When the entire medicine is consumed confused Sullivan realizes his fault. He begins to panic and starts crying. Dooly misleads him to tell a lie that the cork fell out.

Repentant Sullivan is full of remorse and guilt feeling. He fears that because of his negligence his mother would not get well. Panicked Sullivan prays the Virgin Mary to do some miracle to save his mother. He gets back home totally broken and shattered. Mother is alarmed to see him howl. She hugs and consoles him passionately. Truthful and honest Sullivan confesses his crime. The forgiving mother shrugs it off. The tired boy falls fast asleep under the intoxication of the medicine. With the grace of God the miracle happens and Sullivan wakes up to find his mother smiling and recovered.


The story is written in autobiographical mode. The language of the text is rich and descriptive. The content of the story is based on the delicate relationship of a mother and son. The marathon efforts of the little boy to make his ailing mother comfortable fill the hearts of the readers with compassion and sympathy. The childish act of drinking the medicine of his mother by the kids is the climax of the story. Along with the boy the readers too get nervous that what is going to happen now. The plot of the story is binding.

The title of the story is very appropriate. Having his mother ill the small boy takes up the whole responsibility to attend her and mind the household. He does everything that an adult person would have done to manage the situation. Even he goes to pub to get whiskey for his mother although he was scared to see the ruffians there. He acts like a mature person taking all the wise decisions to help his mother get well soon. That is why he is aptly called ‘The Man of the House’Early life.


Raised an only child in Cork, Ireland, to Minnie O'Connor and Michael O'Donovan. He attended school in the famous North Monastery CBS. O'Connor's early life was marked by his father's alcoholism, indebtness and ill-treatment of his mother. O'Connor's childhood was shaped in part by his mother, who supplied much of the family's income because his father was unable to keep steady employment due to his drunkenness.

Irish nationalism

In 1918 O'Connor joined the First Brigade of the Irish Republican Army and served in combat during the Irish War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and joined the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, working in a small propaganda unit in Cork City. He was one of twelve thousand Anti-Treaty combatants who were interned by the government of the new Irish Free State, O'Connor's imprisonment being in Gormanston, County Meath between 1922 and 1923.

Literary career

Following his release, O'Connor took various positions including that of teacher of Irish, theatre director, and librarian. In 1935, O'Connor became a member of the Board of Directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, founded by William Butler Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society.[1] In 1937, he became managing director of the Abbey. Following Yeats's death in 1939, O'Connor's long-standing conflict with other board members came to a head and he left the Abbey later that year.[2] In 1950, he accepted invitations to teach in the United States, where many of his short stories had been published in The New Yorker and won great acclaim.[3]


Frank O'Connor had a stroke while teaching at Stanford University in 1961, and later died from a heart attack in Dublin, Ireland on 10 March 1966. He was buried in Deans Grange Cemetery on 12 March 1966.[4]


O'Connor was perhaps best known for his varied and comprehensive short stories but also for his work as a literary critic, essayist, travel writer, translator and biographer.[5] He was also a novelist, poet and dramatist.[6]

From the 1930s to the 1960s he was a prolific writer of short stories, poems, plays, and novellas. His work as an Irish teacher complemented his plethora of translations into English of Irish poetry, including his initially banned translation of Brian Merriman's Cúirt an Mheán Oíche ("The Midnight Court"). Many of O'Connor's writings were based on his own life experiences — notably his well-known The Man of the House in which he reveals childhood details concerning his early life in County Cork. The Sullivan family in this short story, like his own boyhood family, is lacking a proper father figure. Also, evocative descriptions of the Irish countryside are featured in this bitter-sweet tale. In other stories, his character Larry Delaney, in particular, is reminiscent of events in O'Connor's own life. O'Connor's experiences in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War are reflected in The Big Fellow, his biography of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins, published in 1937, and one of his best-known short stories, Guests of the Nation (1931), published in various forms during O'Connor's lifetime and included in Frank O'Connor — Collected Stories, published in 1981.

O'Connor's early years are recounted in An Only Child, a memoir published in 1961 which has the immediacy of a precocious diary. U.S. President John F. Kennedy remarked anecdotally from An Only Child at the conclusion of his speech at the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center in San Antonio on November 21, 1963: "Frank O'Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall--and Athen they had no choice but to follow them. This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space and we have no choice but to follow it."[7]

O'Connor continued his autobiography through his time with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which ended in 1939, in his book, My Father's Son, which was published in 1968, after O'Connor's death.


gustian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Harriott said...

What is the narrators surname

Kevin Harriott said...

Who was the mother's friend.what was the narrators christian name?what was the narrator greatest fear?what reason did the narrator give his friend for studying at home?

AlwaysBSerene said...

The neighbor's name was Minnie Ryan

AlwaysBSerene said...

The narrator's name Flurry Sullivan

Unknown said...

what are the literary devices and techniques in this story ?

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