In the short story "First Confession," writer Frank O'Connor uses two characters to illustrate different approaches to instilling a belief in a person. While each approach, as used by Mrs. Ryan first, then by the priest, has its merits and can be effective to a certain extent, it can be shown that one way can produce the same result with less grievance to the pupil. This essay will highlight the differences in the blueprint that Mrs. Ryan used to teach the children lessons, as opposed to how the priest would go about enlightening Jackie to the same concepts.
To begin with, Mrs. Ryan would teach the children about Hell. She related stories that scare the children to death which played on Jackie's still immature view of the world. However, it is often the case that this approach will only work for so long before he will find out it is not how she said it was, and he may be discouraged from religion forever. The priest's method would be different, as is shown by how he comes down to Jackie's level to explain how murdering people is not the best way to vent your frustrations, "Lots of the fellows I saw [being executed for murder] killed their grandmothers too, but they all said 'twas never worth it." He talks to Jackie in a way that the boy could relate to what the priest was saying, and instead of conjuring dread at the sight of him, as Ms. Ryan did, he gains Jackie's respect in a way that would probably make other lessons easier to get across.
Another situation that would be handled differently by the priest is when Mrs. Ryan tries to simulate Hell with the candle. As much as may have thought the burn that each child received may have proved invaluable to the illustration, she is needlessly putting them in harm's way for a concept that young people of that age are not fully cognizant of. In addition, these children are not her's to instruct in this matter. The priest did not mention Hell one time while he was in the confessional with Jackie. He did,...
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