“First Confession”

  • Michael Steinman
Part of the Studies in Anglo-Irish Literature book series (SAIL)


In “One Man’s Way”, O’Connor cited “First Confession”, one of his most popular stories, as an example of the need to rewrite to reach a satisfying result:

it had been published and paid for, but it still continued to haunt me. After ten years I realised what was wrong with it. It was too spread out in time. After all, it’s a story of a small boy who goes to Confession and confesses that he had planned to kill his grandmother. It should have been more concentrated. So I rewrote it, confining it to an hour instead of to months. I also published that, and once again felt that I had been a clever man and recognized my own weaknesses before the damage had gone too far. But then … I realised that I had made a still greater mistake. Instead of saying ‘I planned to kill my grandmother’ what I had said in effect was that Jackie had planned to kill his grandmother. I knew the consequences of that change of person: I knew the grandmother was going to go down the drain, and the priest who heard the boy’s confession was going to go down the drain, and that nothing would remain but whatever impression they had managed to leave on that small boy’s highly excitable imagination. But it had to be done. … I rewrote it again, and … I have never wanted to touch that story since. (“One Man’s Way”, p. 157)


Religious Instruction False Confession Popular Story Righteous Indignation Favorite Tactic 
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Copyright information

© Michael Steinman 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Steinman
    • 1
  1. 1.Nassau Community CollegeNew YorkUSA

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