Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation", Philip MacCann's "A Drive" - A comparison with regard to Irish peculiarities

Term Paper, 2005

12 Pages, Grade: 2+


Table of contents

1. Introduction --- Definition of the genre “short story” with regard to Irish peculiarities

2. Philip MacCann “A Drive
2.1. Themes
2.2. Narrative voice
2.3. Approaches to language --- Analyzing the short story’s style
2.4. Narrator characterization

3. Frank O’Connor “Guests of the Nation
3.1. Themes
3.2. Narrative voice
3.3. Approaches to language --- Analyzing the short story’s style
3.4. Narrator characterization

4. Conclusion --- Recapulating comparison

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction --- Definition of the literal genre “Short Story“ with regard to Irish peculiarities

Generally one can say that a short story is a brief fiction in prose with a certain structure, namely with an introduction (exposition), a principal part (development of the conflict, turning point, climax) and finally a conclusion (either denouement or catastrophe). Short stories often begin “in medias res”, which means that the reader is “thrown” directly into the action of the story, without being elaborately informed about the earlier events. This effects a steady build up of tension and calls the reader’s attention. In addition to that, this species of narrative writing usually contains an open ending or a surprising twist at the end. Instead of detailed descriptions, insinuations and sketchiness dominate, consequently the style of writing is to some extent laconic. The language can be considered to be unostentatious and simple, and so are most of the protagonists. Moreover, short stories deal with a short period of time, mostly merely a few days or weeks. Besides, this genre often deals with conflicts (either interior or exterior), a sudden turning point in peoples life or frontier experiences.

Defining the characteristics of a shor t story is rather hard, since there is no ultimate definition of this literary form. There are hybrid forms such as parables or anecdotes. Neither an individual technique of writing, nor a certain length make a short story unique. As the Irish author Frank O’Connor claims in his book “The Lonely Voice” (even the title emphasizes the assumption that mostly ostracized people occur in short stories), the most important distinctive feature compared to other literary types is the short story’s “intense awareness of human loneliness[1]. That goes to show that often outsiders and solitary individuals, living in the margin of society, occur as protagonists. Its form of appearance may vary depending on, for example, the author or the era, so the facts mentioned above cannot be applied to all short stories.

One of the most important countries concerning its incommensurate (compared to its size) production of short stories is, beside the USA and Germany, doubtlessly Ireland. Pre- eminent representatives such as James Joyce, William Trevor or Fank O’Connor have influenced short story writing not merely in Ireland, but all over the world. “These writers evolved the qualities especially associated with the short story: close texture, unity of mood, suggestive idiom, economy of means.[2]

Ireland has always been called a “nation of story- tellers”. The nation’s deeply rooted oral tradition and the manner of story- telling (e.g. Irish fairy tales) has become a national attribute. According to William Trevor, “Stories of one kind or another have a way of pressing themselves into Irish conversation, both as entertainment and as a form of communication[3] That goes to show, that stories in general have a major impact on people in their daily lives. These stories might serve as a kind of amusement, as well as for conversational transactions.

All in all it becomes obvious, that Irish short stories cover a wide range of themes, including general themes such as extraordinary deeds, antagonism and friendship. Before anything else, Irish short stories deal with sectarian violence, the Anglo- Irish war, the Troubles, the hardships of the Irish citizens, as well as Christianity and the colonization from England, which influenced Irish writing in a decisive manner.

In this context, the essay juxtaposes Philip MacCann’s “A Drive” and Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation” concerning several aspects such as themes, point of view, language, style and characterization, whereas the last chapter contains a brief summary.

2. “A Drive” by Philip MacCann

2.1 Themes

Certainly, this short story exhibits various themes as becomes obvious in the course of the story. One of the most important aspects is definitely the fact that the narrator has to deal with a “frontier experience”. He is on the edge of adulthood and he is probably at the age of puberty. Accordingly, he wants to define the limits and wants to be a grown- up human being, so the situations can be described as a transition from one state to another, from childhood to adulthood. This development implies a certain confrontation with the adult world. The narrator’s father restricts his liberty and therefore he strives for independence. The fact that the father prohibits many things, makes them even more interesting for his son. For example, is forbidden to watch nudity and has to avoid the waste grounds, which clearly evokes his curiosity. In addition to that, it is always alluring to move on thin ice, here to oppose his father’s prohibitions and to go to the waste grounds to see naked people in magazines. The fact, that the narrator’s father warns his son against perverts roaming in the waste grounds makes the situation even more thrilling and in the end, the narrator is even disappointed, since the encounter with a “pervert”, who possibly is not one at all, was rather boring.

A further motif in this story is poverty and its consequences. The narrator and his father seem to be rather poor, since they live in a ghetto. To my mind, they are to some extent imprisoned in this bleak environment (Page 48: “We passed the demolished shop”), since the father always wants to go on a drive with his son, which can be interpreted as an attempt to break out (Page 51: “Just the bloddy carthat’s taking you… out of the slum…”). All in all one can say that “A Drive” by Philip MacCann can be considered to be a “coming- of- age story”, due to the facts mentioned above.


[1] Frank O’Connor, “The Lonely Voice” A Study of the Short Story, p. 19

[2] Linda R. Williams, Guides to English Literature – “The Twentieth Century”, pp. 285, 286

[3] (13.04.2005)

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation", Philip MacCann's "A Drive" - A comparison with regard to Irish peculiarities
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Irish Short Stories --- From Joyce to the Present
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
468 KB
Frank, Connor, Guests, Nation, Philip, MacCann, Drive, Irish, Short, Stories, From, Joyce, Present
Quote paper
Sebastian Göb (Author), 2005, Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation", Philip MacCann's "A Drive" - A comparison with regard to Irish peculiarities, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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