Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post by The Typists Pen "The Bridal Night" – Frank O’Connor

March 1 to April 7

Guest Post by The Typists Pen
"The Bridal Night" – Frank O’Connor

ISSM3 has been extended until April 7-plenty of time for you to participate-e mail me if you are interested.

The Typists Pen is a superb blog focused on reviewing plays, books and short stories. Above all else they are heavily devoted to the Irish short story. The Typists Pen is one of my fundamental sources of reading ideas and insight in that area. Last year for ISSM2 they did a post on Kevin Barry's collection of short stories, Dark Lies the Island (you can read it here) and I am very honored that they have returned this year with a post on one of the stories of Frank O'Connor.

Guest Post by The Typists Pen
"The Bridal Night" – Frank O’Connor

In the Frank O’Connor short story The Bridal Night we have the theme of loneliness, despair and city versus country. The story begins with an unnamed first person narrator telling the reader about an old woman called Mrs Sullivan. Mrs Sullivan is sitting by some rocks along the west coast of Ireland and the narrator while out walking decides to sit down and talk to her. Immediately the reader is told how lonely Mrs Sullivan is. She has only one son, Denis and he is no longer living with her having been brought to the asylum in Cork twelve years previously. Since then Mrs Sullivan has been on her own and only seen her son once and that was five years ago.
While still sitting by the rocks Mrs Sullivan tells the narrator why she thinks Denis ended up in the asylum and why they are separated. The reader learns about a young woman called Winnie Ryan who came to teach the local children and in her spare time would sit in one of the hollows by the coast and read a book or write some letters. Denis had seen Winnie as he was working and in the evenings he would spend time sitting with her, the two talking together. Mrs Sullivan tells the narrator that ‘the neighbours could make nothing of it, and she being a stranger, with only the book Irish, they left her alone.’ This statement is important because it in some ways highlights to the reader that Winnie is different to others (city versus country), Irish is not her first language. The reader also learns that Winnie has money, something that the neighbours don’t have, again O’Connor separating city and country.
In jest Winnie had told Mrs Sullivan that ‘Denis is my beau,’ and though Denis and his mother both knew that Winnie was only joking it soon became clear to Winnie that Denis was after more than just her company. She stopped going to the hollow and any time that she did sit by the coast she made sure that she brought some of the school children with her. Despite this Denis would search the coast, looking to find the new spots that Winnie was sitting by. When he did find her it is then that Mrs Sullivan tells the narrator ‘the madness’ came over her son. Denis would just sit down beside Winnie, chewing some grass and not speaking till Winnie got up and left him. It becoming obvious to the reader that Denis had fallen in love with Winnie but the love was not reciprocated.

Things got worse for Mrs Sullivan, particularly at night when she ended up following Denis as he went walking along the coast looking for Winnie (idea of despair). A worried Mrs Sullivan started praying that if anything were to happen to Denis that it would happen while she was still alive. As if her prayers were answered the reader finds that the next night Denis woke up screaming (again the idea of despair) and Mrs Sullivan tried to hold him down but she was unable to do so. She called on her neighbour Sean Donoghue who went to the cottage with his two sons and they tied some rope around Denis, tying him to the bed. Sean telling Mrs Sullivan that he’d stay the night with her till the doctor came in the morning.
The next morning Denis asked his mother to loosen the rope, which she did. This action is important because it is the beginning of Denis being ‘freed.’ When the doctor came he told Mrs Sullivan that it would be the next day before anyone was able to come and take Denis away. Later that night Denis started to call out for Winnie, just as he had the previous night. In an act of desperation he told his mother to get her. Hoping that it would calm him down, Mrs Sullivan sent Sean to get Winnie though she suspected that Winnie might be too afraid to come. To Mrs Sullivan’s surprise Winnie did come to the cottage and went into the bedroom to sit beside Denis. As Denis was lying in the bed he asked Winnie to sleep beside him. Again to Mrs Sullivan’s surprise Winnie agreed to do so; telling Mrs Sullivan that it would cause no harm and that Denis would quietly fall asleep. Winnie’s actions are important because it shows the reader that she wasn’t concerned about what people would think of her, again she is different from others (city versus country again).    

O’Connor ends The Bridal Night with the reader finding out that that the next morning after Denis woke up, Winnie promised him that she’d return that evening. A calm Denis fell back asleep and despite it being clear to Mrs Sullivan that Denis was going to the asylum and wouldn’t see Winnie again she was relieved that the despair had finally left her son. She got on her knees and thanked Winnie for what she had done telling the narrator that Winnie earned the respect of the neighbours for helping Denis, O’Connor in some ways bringing city and country together albeit at the expense of the ‘mad’ Denis Sullivan.

End of Guest Post

I offer my great thanks to Ben of the Typists Pen for this very insightful guest post. I strongly suggest any one who wants to learn more about Irish literature follow his blog.

Mel u

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