According to Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, the phrase "Oedipus complex" is defined as: "the positive libidinal feelings that a child develops toward the parent of the opposite sex and that when unresolved are conceived as a source of adult personality disorder." The title of this story is said to have received its name based on two things - primarily on the Greek Oedipus, who was a renowned character in Greek mythology. Secondly, it is based on the bizarre and interesting theory of Oedipus complex established by psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. This title also relates to past experiences familiar to O'Connor himself. Often times, authors associate their ideas and narratives with certain situations and experiences they have encountered in their lifetimes. Frank O'Connor is certainly one of those authors. This strategy helps to shape characters and enhance plot, therefore creating a theme that captures the reader's attention. In the short story "My Oedipus Complex," O' Connor uses the character Larry to represent his experiences as a young boy and relay the main theme and story's title to the reader.
Frank O' Connor was born as Michael O'Donovan in Cork, Ireland in 1903. His family was poor and consistently faced problems with exceeding their credit limit. O'Connor's father, Michael, was a cruel drunk who mistreated O'Connor's mother, Minnie. Michael could not stand the fact that O'Connor would rather sit at home and read a book instead of playfully fight with the boys on the street. As a result, Michael criticized his son, calling him a sissy and wimp. These degrading comments weakened O'Connor's self esteem, which often led him to seek comfort from his mother. Eventually, O'Connor became a stereotypical "mamma's boy" and began to idolize his mother. Throughout his life, O'Connor struggled through many tough times, always arguing with his father. This theme of father-son rivalry also appears in "My Oedipus Complex."
As the reader becomes familiar with the character of Larry, one soon discovers the similarities between he and O'Connor. O'Connor's characters tend to reach conclusions about themselves that share a universal meaning, therefore making these characters appealing to the reader. Critic Michael Neary reinforces this idea in his article "Studies in Short Fiction, The Inside-out World in Frank O'Connor's Stories." Neary's article discusses a variety of O'Connor's short stories and analyzes the traits and qualities of several characters in the different stories. He explains:
O'Connor's characters straddle the line between inward self and the
questions of humanity, giving his stories their significance and
appeal...Frank O'Connor's short stories portray psychological journeys
into the self, stressing the simultaneousness of community and the
individual (Neary 1).
In his article, Neary does not only describe O'Connor's characters, but he also explores O'Connor's use of language and how...