In The Drunkard, Frank O Connor portrays Mick Delaney as a classic Irish drunk, by showing his selfishness, his ego, and his depression. He has all three of these, in great quantity, which makes him a very unstable person. It does not just affect him; it also affects every one around him (especially his family).
The story takes place in Ireland on a street called Blarney Lane. It wasn t necessarily the poorest town because everyone on the street thought them selves better then Mr. Delaney because he was only a laboring man. In Ireland a person is only as good as what they do for a living. This is one of the aspects that cause Mick to have such a selfish attitude, because he needs to feel like he is actually better then them.
Mrs. Delaney is Mick s wife. She was a very hard workingwoman. She had to be with a husband like him. When her husband would go on drinking binges she would end up paying the price. She would have to go out and make excuses for him on why he was not at work. One time after her husband missed two days of work because of his drinking she had to sell their kitchen clock just to pay the bills. This is interesting because it shows that they are so poor the only thing in their house worth anything is the kitchen clock. In Frank O Connor New Perspectives Owene Weber writes, Later stories consists of a set of sketches of painful liaisons in which women find themselves bound to the wrong man (130). This is very much the case in The Drunkard . She is forced to deal with the consequences of here husbands drinking problem. Mss. Delaney deserved respect and, did not get it from her selfish husband.
Larry Delaney was Mick s son. His fathers drinking problem also affected him. To explain how much he was O Connor writes, Mother and I knew all the phases and dreaded all the dangers (266). This illustrates that he did not have a great childhood growing up. Dreading dangers of his fathers drinking could only mean that his father was not a nice person when he was drunk. Although the story does not say it his father may have beaten him as well.
Mick Delaney was a very selfish man, and it seems like all he cares about is himself. Even though he and his family were very poor he would save up his money then spend it on himself. For example he bought himself a brand new blue serge suit and bowler hat that probably took all his savings to buy. He did this just to impress all his neighbors who considered him well beneath them. Sometimes Mick would calculate all his money and say, He would die worth hundreds (265). Hundreds even back then, was nothing to really brag about. All of this gave Mick an ego problem and when Mick started to feel like he was stronger then his neighbors he would get cocky and then feel the need for a celebration. In order to celebrate properly he felt he needed to drink.
Mick is a binge-drinking alcoholic. He could go months and even years without drinking, but after his first drink he would realize that he was a fool. Then he would continue to drink until he would forget about what he had done. The drunkards progress (265) is how O Connor so eloquently explained it. By going to his friends funeral Larry and his mother both knew that Mick was going to drink, so Mrs. Delaney made him take Larry so he could keep an eye on his father. Larry knew he had to stop his father from drinking, but was put off with a bribe of lemonade so his father could go into the pub and drink. This shows how weak Larry is because lemonade was more important then dealing with his fathers consequences when he s drunk. After Larry is done with his lemonade he is still thirsty. He decides to take a drink of his fathers porter to see why Mick liked it so much, and ends up drinking the whole thing. This could be the beginning of his own drinking problem because alcoholism is a disease and is hereditary. The fact that he is only ten years old and can already finish a whole pint is not a good sign. Larry already likes the feeling of being drunk because it makes him feel older and more mature. This is a false sense of pride and Larry might always look for it the rest of his life. That s how I became an alcoholic.
Mick was furious that his son drank his drink. He began shouting at Larry, and then Larry began to get sick. His father was more concerned with his suit then the well being of his boy. He jumped away from him and told him to go out back. This is another example of how selfish old Mick is, by prioritizing his suit over his boy. When Larry dashed for the back door he ran straight into the wall and gashed his eye open. Mick was so upset that he was getting kicked out of the pup he did not even comfort his son who was sick and injured. This is yet another example of his fathers selfishness.
All of the old woman of Blarney Lane laughed and mocked Larry as his father walked him home. The irony of this is that they usually do this to his father when he comes home from the pub drunk. Maybe this will help Mick see how stupid he looks when he comes crawling home from the pub, and make him change his ways, but I don t think it will. Mick is too proud of a man and probably thinks he does not look as silly as his son.
Mrs. Delaney came home furious and blamed Mick for being irresponsible and purposely getting Larry drunk. She said, Shame on you for brining up your child to be a drunken corner-boy like yourself (271). Although this was not really the case now, because he did not give his son the drink, it very well could be the case in the future. Mick complained and said that he should be the one that she should be feeling sorry for because he did not get to drink at all, and everyone on the street was laughing at him because of his boy. He felt no sorrow for his boy he only felt sorry for himself. This man is the definition of selfishness.
After Mick went to work the next day Larry s mother came into his room and said, You were his guardian angel (271). Although Larry has made a fool of himself and his father he saved his family from having to go through the consequences of his father getting drunk. Like the humility, the loss of money, and the stress that comes with it.
He was also his fathers guardian angel by saving his father from the depression he would have felt from drinking again, because when his father gets drunk he drinks to forget about how big of a fool he is and then stays in bed for a fortnight. So although his father does not realize it Larry saved his money, his feeling of self worth, and his relationship with his family, because who knows how much more his wife could take of him being drunk.
The title of the story is The Drunkard yet the drunkard, who is Mick Delaney never even drinks a drop of alcohol. The title could be about Larry and his first experience as a drunk. It could be telling Larry s future when he grows up. It is written in Larry s point of view so he could just be talking about himself, and how he became a drunk and where he got it from his father.
Even so, Mick is the classic drunk. He is a selfish egomaniac, and because of his drinking becomes very depressed. I myself know all about the character traits of an alcoholic, because I am recovering from the disease. Those are the main flaws of a drunk and O Connor depicts them beautifully.
Work Cited Page
O Connor, Frank. The Drunkard Perrine s Story and Structure. Ed. Michel Rosenburge. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998
Weber, Owene. Frank O Connor: New Perspectives. Ed. Robert Evens. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1998