The Study of History

This paper discusses and analyzes the short story, “The Study of History”, by Frank O’Connor.

This paper examines O’Connor’s story and pays particular attention to the narrator’s character. The first-person narrator becomes a man when he becomes disillusioned with his parents after he discovers they are not the “principles” he thought, but simply “characters” who could have chosen a very different life and changed his own history. The paper explains that this is the story of a young boy’s first encounter with the truth that his parents may not be perfect. Thus, it is the first step on his journey to manhood, when he discovers life is not perfect.
The young narrator really has not thought much of history or his parents’ relationship before this story takes place. As he says, Up to this they had been principles, not characters, like a chain of mountains guarding a green horizon (O’Connor 422). He discovers his parents could have had very different lives, and he begins to wonder about the choices they made. He says, One of the discoveries I was making at the time was that mother was not only rather hard-hearted but very impractical as well (O’Connor 423). This is his first step toward manhood, because he has discovered his mother is not perfect. Once he figures that out, he will never be the same again, and he will never be the little boy he once was. In addition, he becomes closer to his father as he becomes a man. He notes he could get his father to pay attention to him after he started learning about his parents’ histories.