Short story: “The Man of the World”

by look i have opinions

“The Man of the World,” by Frank O’Connor

From the July 28, 1956 New Yorker (subscribers can read it online here) and the February 2010 New Yorker Fiction Podcast (listen here)

Maybe 5,000 words?

I was about to say it’s hard to write from a child’s point of view, but that’s not really true. The truth is, it’s hard to write from any point of view. A point of view, and especially that of a first person narrator, demands a kind of integrity that I sometimes think is the only thing that matters in fiction.

The obvious pitfall with child characters is seeing them through an adult’s eyes, that is, as small. The point of view cannot be small if it’s going to contain a whole story. The child’s problems cannot be small if they’re going to furnish a plot. The character must be a person, someone who matters. This story filters the child’s point of view through the adult narrator, which I think works amazingly well. Mostly it works because the narrator has so much restraint. He doesn’t work too hard at reprocessing his childhood perceptions, he just articulates them. He also seems to have a lot of respect for his childhood self and he makes it obvious how much influence his early experiences had on his life as a whole.

Found an interesting essay on this story in the Colby Quarterly.

The New Yorker’s abstract is even sillier than usual.