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Point of View in Frank O Connor’s Short fiction, My Oedipus Complex

Point of view/ viewpoint is one of fiction’s elements which is classified by Staton as the means of the story, literary device. It does not mean that the role of the point of view is not important in fiction. Preference of point of view will be influenced through the way of story. It is why point of view should be taken into consideration the presence and the form of point of view.

Point of view in a fiction work always asking the questions about: Who is telling the story? From which side is that event seen? It can influence the way of the story, problem in the story, and the reader’s carefulness.

Let’s see this example. In one short fiction, there is the bank robbing. The figures are the robbers, bank officers that become hostages, police, and society of that town. If that story is told, the sense of the story, the attitude describing and the figure’s feeling describing will be different, depend on from which side the story seen.

If the point of view is seen from the bank officer’s point of view, the story will be always describing the feeling of the hostages.

They hate the robber, but they can not do anything, they only can hope to the police outside there and hope that they can get out safely. If the point of view is seen from police side, it will always tell about what’s going on out side the bank, how was the government reaction, family of the hostage reaction, and the strategy how to rescue the hostage and capture the robber.

It is also seen in the Frank O’Connor’s short fiction, My Oedipus Complex. In this story, the point of view is from Larry’s side. This story began when his father is away fighting in the war, a young boy, the first-person narrator, develops a misunderstood attraction toward his mother, a situation which becomes complicated by his father’s return home and the parents’ decision to have another child.

If it’s seen from Larry’s side, it will always talk about Larry’s feeling, the jealousness to his father and how to get mother’s undivided attentions. It will become a conflict of this story.

But when it’s seen from mother’s side, there will be happy family story. It just an ordinary family story, the family consist of father, mother and two sons. The real conflict is in Larry’s own self. It can be said that there is a conflict in this story when it is seen by Larry’s point of view, but there is not conflict at all when it’s seen by others point of view. From these examples, it can be concluded that point if view influence the story.

The meaning of point of view it self is something refers to the story which is told. It is a way or a view that is used by the writer as a medium to provided the figures, actions, setting, and events that form the story in fiction work ( Abrams, 1981: 142).

It also can be said that point of view is a strategy, technique, that purposely chosen by the writer to show their idea of their story. Actually every story, the view of life in a story is belongs to the writer. However, those things should be channeled through the figure’s point of view.

Point of view also often called as focus of narration ( Stevick, 1967: 85), focalization (Gennete, 1981: 89). There are some visions in point of view according to Pouillon and Todorov, it is divided in three: vision from behind, vision with, and vision from without. Vision From Behind means that the narrator knows well than figure. Vision With is when the narrator is as know as the figure. While Vision From Without is the narrator less know than figure.

One of these three vision can be found in My Oedipus Complex. O’Connor use Vision From Without, where Larry as narrator is less know that the other figure. As can be seen from the text:

In the afternoon, at Mother’s request, Father took me for a walk. This time we went into town instead of out in the country, and I thought at first, in my usual optimistic way, that it might be an improvement. It was nothing of the sort. Father and I had quite different notions of a walk in town.

He had no proper interest in trams, ships, and horses, and the only thing that seemed to divert him was talking to fellows as old as himself. When I wanted to stop he simply went on, dragging me behind him by the hand; when he wanted to stop I had no alternative but to do the same.

I noticed that it seemed to be a sign that he wanted to stop for a long time whenever he leaned against a wall. The second time I saw him do it I got wild. He seemed to be settling himself forever.

I pulled him by the coat and trousers, but, unlike Mother who, if you were too persistent, got into a wax and said: “Larry, if you don’t behave yourself, I’ll give you a good slap,” Father had an extraordinary capacity for amiable inattention. I sized him up and wondered would I cry, but he seemed to be too remote to be annoyed even by that. Really, it was like going for a walk with a mountain! He either ignored the wrenching and pummeling entirely, or else glanced down with a grin of amusement from his peak. I had never met anyone so absorbed in him self as he seemed.

From the text above it is clear that Larry just guessing what is his father like. It just all about his feeling. The other text also shows the Vision From Without.

But as time went on I saw more and more how he managed to alienate Mother and me. What made it worse was that I couldn’t grasp his method or see what attraction he had for Mother. In every possible way he was less winning than I.

Larry felt that his father wanted to alienate him and his mother. It is because his mother gave extra attention to his father than him. Whereas, his mother only did what should the wife did and father also did not mean like that. It is clear that this story use Vision From Without.

However, point of view is something that refers to technique problem, the medium to give bigger purpose than this own point of view. According to Booth in Stevick, 1967:89, point of view is a technique that is used by the writer to find and inform the purpose of their fiction work.

Point of view it self can be divided into two kinds: first-person (“I” style) and third-person (“he/she” style). Both of those kinds of point of view have their own consequences. So that, freedom side and limitedness are need to be seen objectively proper with the possibility that can be reached by point of view that is used. However the writer has the unlimited freedom to use more than one point of view in writing.

In Frank O’Connor’s short fiction, My Oedipus Complex is used first-person point of view. It is seen since the beginning of the story,

Father was in the army all through the war – the first war, I mean – so, up to the age of five, I never saw much of him, and what I saw did not worry me. Sometimes I woke and there was a big figure in khaki peering down at me in the candlelight. Sometimes in the early morning I heard the slamming of the front door and the clatter of nailed boots down the cobbles of the lane. These were Father’s entrances and exits. Like Santa Claus he came and went mysteriously.

O’Connor uses “I” style in his story, and he only use one style. Larry is both the narrator and the figure. As had been said before that each kind of point of view has their own consequence. In this short fiction, O’Connor wanted the reader see the conflict as Larry. This short fiction is totally seen by the side of Larry. The focus of the story is the relationship between Larry and his father. It is witty and ingenious in the way it depicts the oedipal phase. The conflict arises when his father comes back from the war. Larry views his father as a stranger who suddenly got his undivided mother’s affection.

Point of view is very important thing in short fiction. Before write the story, the writer should have decided which point of view he/she will use. He/she should have decided which one between telling the story which is told by one of the figure in that story or by the narrator that doesn’t involve in that story (Genette, 1980:244). In Frank O’Connor’s short fiction, My Oedipus Complex, the way of telling story used the first one. Larry plays both as a narrator and as the figure of that short story. Moreover, Larry is the main figure in this short story. It is seen from the text,

  • “You must be quiet while Daddy is reading, Larry,” Mother said impatiently.
  • It was clear that she either genuinely liked talking to Father better than talking to me, or else that he had some terrible hold on her which made her afraid to admit the truth.
  • “Mummy,” I said that night when she was tucking me up, “do you think if I prayed hard God would send Daddy back to the war?”
  • She seemed to think about that for a moment.
  • “No, dear,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think He would.”
  • “Why wouldn’t He, Mummy?”
  • “Because there isn’t a war any longer, dear.”
  • “But, Mummy, couldn’t God make another war, if He liked?”
  • “He wouldn’t like to, dear. It’s not God who makes wars, but bad people.”
  • “Oh!” I said.  I was disappointed about that. I began to think that God wasn’t quite what He was cracked up to be.

From the text above, it can be conclude that Larry, beside being figure in that story also being the narrator. It is seen from the used of the word ‘I’. Larry used word ‘I’ refers to him self. The fact that showed him as the figure is the conversation between him and his mom, as can be seen above.

Beside decided the way to tell that story, the writer also has to decide from which side the story will be seen. It can be seen from the first person point of view, third person point of view, or mix both of them. Both of all has their own consequence.

O’Connor’s used the first point of view in his short fiction, My Oedipus Complex. So that, O’Connor only showed the story in Larry’s side. As had been told before that whether use first person point of view or the third point of view has their own consequence. The using of first point of view has some weakness. One of them is the reader only can feel the “I” feeling. They don’t know the real feeling of the other figure because everything is seen by the side of “I”.

There is always a renovation in the writing of short fiction, whether involve one-two certain elements or amount of elements in a short fiction. It is also can be seen in choosing point of view. The writer can make a renovation in their short fiction in order they can attract the reader. It is done to make special effect to the reader when read their short fiction.

It can be seen from O’Connor’s short fiction, My Oedipus Complex. O’Connor use point of view from the five-years-old child. There are many reasonable reasons he used this point of view. There is something that should be emphasized here, that this short fiction talked about someone who has the Oedipus complex. Before the renovation of O’Connor’s short fiction is talked, it’s better to know what Oedipus complex is.

The Oedipus complex in Freudian psychoanalysis is named after the Greek mythical character Oedipus, who unknowingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother, Jocasta. Appearing between the ages of three and five, the child feels sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and desires the death of the parent of the same sex. As understood today, the Freudian Oedipus complex has two poles.

The “positive pole” implies hatred and a death wish for the parent of the same sex (father for boys and mother for girls), and love and attachment towards the parent of the opposite sex. The “negative pole” implies the hatred and death wish directed at the parent of the opposite sex, and love for the parent of the same sex. A common misunderstanding of the Oedipus complex is “hatred for the father and love for the mother” in both sexes. In fact, most individuals lie somewhere between the two poles of the Oedipus complex, rather than on a single pole. The Oedipus complex is manifested only in very young children. (wkipedia.com)

From the explanation above, it can be concluded that O’Connor use five-years-old child as the point of view in his short fiction because Oedipus complex only manifested in very young children.

But then appeared one question after know what Oedipus complex is. Why O’Connor use the prime figure a boy, not a girl? The most possible answer is that people only common with what in Wikipedia said, ‘hatred for the father and love for the mother’. It means that most of the people who feel this syndrome are the boy. In fact, there is not only a boy, a girl also possible to feel this syndrome.

The other reason of using five-years-old point of view is in order to get the innocent point of view. Some innocent things can be the most interesting thing. As can be seen in the text,

But as time went on I saw more and more how he managed to alienate Mother and me. What made it worse was that I couldn’t grasp his method or see what attraction he had for Mother. In every possible way he was less winning than I. He had a common accent and made noises at his tea. I thought for a while that it might be the newspapers she was interested in, so I made up bits of news of my own to read to her.

Then I thought it might be the smoking, which I personally thought attractive, and took his pipes and went round the house dribbling into them till he caught me. I even made noises at my tea, but Mother only told me I was disgusting. It all seemed to hinge round that unhealthy habit of sleeping together, so I made a point of dropping into their bedroom and nosing round, talking to myself, so that they wouldn’t know I was watching them, but they were never up to anything that I could see. In the end it beat me. It seemed to depend on being grown-up and giving people rings, and I realized I’d have to wait. But at the same time I wanted him to see that I was only waiting, not giving up the fight.

From the text above, it can be seen that there is all about Larry’s innocent thought. All those innocent thought are the most interesting side of this short fiction. It is told how he wanted to take back her mother attentions by making noise in his tea cup or by reading newspaper like his father did. It is something innocent but also funny. The other Innocent-funny story also can be seen in the other text,

  • “Mummy,” I said that night when she was tucking me up, “do you think if I prayed hard God would send Daddy back to the war?”
  • She seemed to think about that for a moment.
  • “No, dear,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think He would.”
  • “Why wouldn’t He, Mummy?”
  • “Because there isn’t a war any longer, dear.”
  • “But, Mummy, couldn’t God make another war, if He liked?”
  • “He wouldn’t like to, dear. It’s not God who makes wars, but bad people.”
  • “Oh!” I said.  I was disappointed about that. I began to think that God wasn’t quite what He was cracked up to be.

It is clear from the text above that Larry wanted God to make another war in order his father no longer in their house. It is innocent but funny story. From the text above, it also can be seen that the word ‘war’ is sounds like something fun for Larry.

It can be happened when fundamental value from the message which we give, whether spoken or written is not stop in a language or words that written, but further more to the basic concept behind those words, so that the words only seen as a symbol from the concept or our abstract ideas in our mind that seems like real.

“The sign that make up language are not abstractions but real objects (Saussure, in Schleifer: 353). Te definition of language it self is, “Language is a system of arbitrary vowel symbols which permits all people in a given culture, or another people who have learned the system of that culture, to communicate or interact” (Finochiaro in Alwasilah:82).

While this is what Saussure said about word, “I Propose to retain the word (sign) to designate the whole and to replace concept and sound-image respectively by signified (signify) and signifier (signifiant); the last two terms have the advantage of indicating the opposition that separates them from each other and from the whole of which they are parts.(Saussure in Schleifer:251).

From those explanations, can be concluded that there are two elements in the word, the first is signifier (symbol/sign) and the second is signified (concept). “Saussure explains the arbitrary nature of the linguistic sign and establishes the duality of its nature as signified (concept) and signifier (Saussure in Schleifer:243).

If the signifier is a house, then the word ‘house’ is a symbol of a building concept consist of the wall, the roof, the door, the window, rooms that has the function as a place to live, as a protection, a place to do the family gathering consist of father, mother, son, and many more.  When it refers to the definition of language, language is an arbitrary, so a word will make a different sign in everybody, “bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary (Saussure in Sxhleifer:251). “In fact, every means of expression used in society is based, in principle, on collective behavior or what-amounts to the same thing-on convention” (Saussure dalam Schleifer:252).

Based on those agreement people use symbol/language as a way to communicate in the interaction one another and deliver both their message and their ideas, so that an American Linguist said that, “Language is convention, and the nature of the sign that is agreed upon does not matter (Whitney in Schleifer:245).

Based on the structuralism theory of Ferdinand De Saussure, signified from signifier ‘war’ is hostility, murderess, cruelness, damage, suffer, and soon. So that the word ‘war’ represent something fear and hate by many people. Then why do Larry in O’Connor’s short fiction, My Oedipus Complex, didn’t think so? In the text he said,’ “But Mummy couldn’t God make another war, if He liked?”  “He wouldn’t like to, dear. It’s not God who makes wars, but bad people.” I was disappointed about that’.

The word ‘war’ in this short fiction has the different meaning which is represented a hope to something fun and happy. As psychoanalysis theory of Jacques Lacan said, “We only to understand the mirror stage as an identification, in the full sense that analysis gives to the term: namely, the transformation that takes place in the subject (Lacan dalam Schleifer:382)”.

It mean that when read this short fiction, reader made Larry as reflection of  their selves, when someone is placed in Larry’s position, they will have the same perception about the word ‘war’ which is mean happiness and fun thing. Larry has his own reason why he expected a war. The reason is because he used to live only with his mother when his father left home for a long time to faith in the war. Larry’s father seldom went home and never stayed for long time, so that Larry didn’t know well his father figure and considered his father as a stranger.

Moreover, Larry considered his father as his enemy just because mother attention is divided. Larry used to has his undivided mother’s attention. Larry didn’t like this condition and want his father back to the war, so that he prayed to God to make another war in order he can live jut with his mother.

Those explanations showed the innocence of a five-years-old child, but it is the most interesting thing in this short fiction. If the story is seen by father or mother’s side, this story would not interest anymore. It is because O’Connor will set the story with different way. In adult side, war is something bad, cruel, and damage. But in Larry’s side, the war became something fun and happy.

This is the importance of point of view. As had been explained before that the preference of point of view is really important. The story would be different when O’Connor used the story from the side of mother or father. If it is seen by mother’s point of view, there will be only an ordinary family story, the happiness of the end of the war because she could live together with her husband, with the two spoiled sons.

REFERENCES

  • Nurgiantoro, Burhan. 2005. Teori Pengkajian Fiksi. Jogjakarta: Gadjah Mada               University Press.
  • Frank O’Connor short fiction, My Oedipus Complex
  • www.wikipedia.com
  • Alwasilah, A. Chaedar.1993. Linguistik Suatu Pengantar. Bandung: Angkasa.
  • Mizener, Arthur (Ed). 1967. Modern Short Stories: The Use of Imagination. New York:  W.W. Norton Comp.
  • Schleifer , Ronald Robert Con Davis. 1984. Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies.New York & London: Longman.
Ditulish oleh: SISKA INDRIANI

Muhammad Zaki Al-Aziz

Alumnus Sastra Inggris UIN BDG, Mahasiswa Pasca SKI UIN, Marketer Online, Blogger, Activist, Studies Lover, Free Thinker, Writer, Founder of sastrajingga.com & Co-founder of "Comming soon yukdiskusi.com. Contact me @ZakiiAydia

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