The Half Brothers - Sample Essay

What similarities and differences have you found between “The Half Brothers” By Elizabeth Gaskell and “My Oedipus Complex” By Frank O’Connor? These two stories are very different upon first glance. For example one is about a pair of half brothers set in Victorian times and the other is about a small child named Larry who thinks he’s a lot wiser then he is. However, if you look deeper you can start to find similarities between the two. They have similar themes, and links can be made between them.

A big difference between them is the titles. For example ‘The Half Brothers’ is a very self evident title but ‘My Oedipus Complex’ is a little more obscure. ‘My Oedipus Complex’ is ironic because although Larry does have a strong attachment to his mother it is an exaggeration to call it an Oedipus Complex. The title is almost as if the narrator is mocking himself. ‘The Half Brothers’ is indeed about two half brothers. Another difference between the titles is that they make they reader react in different ways.

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For example ‘My Oedipus Complex’ is an intriguing title whereas ‘The Half Brothers’ is simple and obvious. The reader would be more drawn towards ‘My Oedipus Complex’ because the word ‘Oedipus’ is unknown and the word ‘complex’ makes the story seem interesting and almost mysterious. The title of “The Half Brothers” wouldn’t catch the reader’s eye because it is boring and the words are all familiar. When looking at the general themes of the two stories it becomes clear that they are very similar. For example both have the theme of jealousy.

In ‘The Half Brothers’ it is William Preston’s jealousy of Gregory and in ‘My Oedipus Complex’ it is Larry and his father’s jealousy of each other first and then of Sonny. In both stories it is jealousy of a mother’s love, which makes the reader relate to the stories more, because it is a common issue. Another linking theme is that of forgiveness. For example in ‘The Half Brothers’ William Preston begs God for forgiveness after realising how wrongly he had treated Gregory and in ‘My Oedipus Complex’ Larry and his father forgive each other because they are in the same situation at the end of the story.

Using the theme of forgiveness in stories that also have the theme of jealousy makes the reader feel that everything must come to an end whether it is good or bad because forgiveness is an end to jealousy and also to both stories. There is also a less obvious theme in the stories of religion. For example “we heard mass at St Augustine’s and said a prayer for father” in ‘My Oedipus Complex’ and “God’s will be done” in ‘The Half Brothers’. This use of religion in the stories sets the period as nowadays most people are not very religious.

It shows that in the past God was very important to the average person and had a big influence on their lives and the decisions they made. Reasons for some of the differences between the stories may be because they were written and set in very different periods. For example ‘The Half Brothers’ was set in Victorian times when it was also written but ‘My Oedipus Complex’ was set just after the First World War but written much later then that. This makes the authors present the themes in very different ways.

Frank O’Connor is more light-hearted in his presentation of jealousy whereas Elizabeth Gaskell is definitely more morbid and pessimistic in her betrayal of this sin. The narrators of the two stories play a very important role in how the reader responds to the story. For example the reader can only see the events of the story through the eyes of the narrator. In ‘The Half Brothers’ the narrator is an adult or young man who is mature enough to understand most of life’s situations. However, in ‘My Oedipus Complex’ the narrator is a five year old boy who thinks he knows a lot but clearly does not.

This gives the reader very different perspectives on the situations. In ‘My Oedipus Complex’ you learn a lot about the narrator whereas in ‘The Half Brothers’ you don’t even know the narrator’s name. For example in ‘My Oedipus Complex’ you really get inside Larry’s mind with phrases such as “I couldn’t help feeling that if this was how God answered my prayers, he couldn’t listen to them very attentively. ” Phrases like this show the character of the narrator and he and therefore the story becomes a lot less mysterious. In fact ‘The Half Brothers’ is more mysterious then ‘My Oedipus Complex’.

This contradicts the reader’s impressions from the titles. The stories are both based around relationships making the characters the most important part of the stories and you can see this from the titles. For example ‘My Oedipus Complex’ and ‘The Half Brothers’ both suggest family relationships. The relationships in the stories create the themes and events that occur. The narrator is therefore the most important character in both stories because they are directly affected by the events that happen throughout the story.

In ‘My Oedipus Complex’ there are three main relationships, Larry and his father, Larry and his mother and Larry’s mother and father and the reader can see jealousy in all three of them. For example, “Either Father or I would have to leave the house. I didn’t want to drink from Mother’s saucer; I wanted to be treated as an equal in my own home. ” And “I think it must have been then that I realised he was jealous too. And there stood mother in her nightdress, looking as if her heart was broken between us. I hoped she felt as she looked.



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