The Problem with Oliver by Maggie O'Farrell

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Most teenagers have experienced that odd moment when their parents know what they are doing, even though they haven’t told them; and they certainly don’t like being compared to their parents. Young people consider themselves as individuals who have nothing in common with their parents – but in fact they might have more in common with their elders than they think. The latter might be the case for the main character in Maggie O’Farrell’s short story “The Problem with Oliver”, Fionnuala, who is a perfect, and almost stereotypical, example of a teenager of the kind mentioned in the sentences above. This short story covers some of the greatest problems and themes, we are all likely to encounter in our own life somehow. It is about the relationship between mother and daughter and about social heritage, how we all deal with growing up, falling in love - which is most likely to be kept secret by young people. What to do, when the one you’re in love with comes from a culture that is despised by your closest family.

When the mother is experiencing her first out-of-body experience and tells Fionnuala about it, Fionnuala is rather sceptical and is wondering if her mother has been smoking. She makes it clear to herself, that her mother has officially gone mad, and she is frustrated and tries to erase the possible similarities between Fionnuala and her mother. They don’t even look alike – not anymore. Not since Fionnuala has started straightening her hair. In which, you could say that Fionnuala will most likely not want to look like her “mad” mother. But the out of body experience made Grainne wonder if her daughter was going to make the same mistake by bringing Oliver along to the beach hut. She is laughing, probably trying to laugh it off and make Fionnuala understand it. She then says: “Then I realised it was you, and I was me, in here, in the house.” (l. 71) In which could mean that Grainne is willing to let her daughter manage it in her own way. Fionnuala may not...
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