"Small in a way that a bullet is small": the short fiction of Edna O'Brien
thesisposted on 2023-08-30, 17:51 authored by Marion L. Gent
The focus of this study is Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object (2013), a collection of stories written and published over a period of more than forty years. The introduction reviews the critical reception of O’Brien’s work. It discusses the factors that contributed to her marginalisation; only in the last two decades has Edna O’Brien’s work attracted scholarly appraisal and re-evaluation. My analysis contributes to this body of criticism on the work of a writer who, in my view, has been seriously overlooked. Chapter One provides a general introduction to O’Brien’s writing. Many of her stories shed light on the plight of women in Ireland in the mid-twentieth century. I discuss her use of certain narrative techniques, including unreliable narrators and the frequent practice of not naming characters. A close reading of ‘A Scandalous Woman’ follows. Chapter Two discusses the impact that childhood experiences have on adult lives in O’Brien’s stories. I draw on the work of Julia Kristeva to support my analysis of unresolved relationships between mothers and daughters, with particular reference to ‘A Rose in the Heart of New York’. The final chapter discusses the importance of the house in O’Brien’s stories. I examine the concept of dwelling, referencing The Poetics of Space (1994) by Gaston Bachelard. For many of O’Brien’s women, the house is their exclusive domain. Drawing on Jean Baudrillard’s System of Objects (1996), I discuss the significance of the house and its contents in the protagonists’ lives. The conclusions of this study are twofold. In the hands of Edna O’Brien, the short story form is capable of delivering a compelling and irrefutable message. Secondly, it is the short story’s capacity to shape and be shaped by cultural conditions that enables marginalised voices to become part of the historical narrative of the times.
InstitutionAnglia Ruskin University
- Accepted version