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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 40 / 50





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been paying attention. Shanahan explains to Lamont the current focus of Finn’s tale, as Lamont’s attention is enticed by the mention of Sweeney’s incredible leaps from tree to tree:

The story, said learned Shanahan in a learned explanatory manner, is about this fellow Sweeney that argued the toss with the clergy and came off second-best at the wind-up. There was a curse--a malediction--put down in the book against him. The upshot is that your man becomes a bloody bird. (118)

Lamont is attracted to Shanahan’s mention of jumps because it allows him to tell an anecdote about "Sergeant Craddock, the first man in Ireland at the long jump in the time that’s gone" (119). Lamont proceeds to relate a tale of a day of "Gaelic League Sports or whatever it was that was being held" (119). After a manly challenge from a loud-mouthed gamer, this Sergeant confronts the current long-jumping champion and beats him, with a miraculous leap of "twenty- four feet six" (122). Lamont’s friends are highly impressed by this tale of athletic prowess, but their discussion of the Irish sporting capacity is cut short by Finn, who simply continues where he left off, interrupting his interrupter.

Leaving this directionless fireside conversation, we must now turn to the main part of this lowest narrative level, the revenge narrative written by Orlick against Trellis. Orlick literally plots revenge, and hopes to sentence his father to death by torture. This is yet another example of wordplay becoming literal occurrences. The narrator provides the reader with another short synopsis to set the scene of Orlick’s revenge:

ORLICK TRELLIS, having concluded his course of study at the residence of the Pooka MacPhellimey, now takes his place in civil life, living as a lodger in the house of FURRISKEY, whose domestic life is about to be blessed by the advent of a little stranger. (235)

Orlick, one remembers, left the Red Swan with the Pooka after his birth; Orlick now lodges with the "evil" Furriskey, who has built up a very innocent family life and is expecting a baby. The narrator’s synopsis also explains that Shanahan and Lamont have come to Furriskey with fears that Trellis may become immune to the drugs he is constantly given, and are afraid of the punishment that will surely ensue if Trellis should regain his tyranny over their lives. Luckily for the characters,

One day in Furriskey’s sitting-room they discover what appear to be some pages of manuscript of a high-class story in which the names of painters and French wines are used with knowledge and authority. On investigation they find that Orlick has inherited his father’s gift for literary composition. Greatly excited, they suggest that he utilize his gift to turn the tables (as it were) and compose a story on the subject of Trellis, a fitting punishment indeed for the usage he has given others. Smouldering with resentment at the stigma of his own bastardy, the dishonour and death of his mother, and incited by the subversive teachings of the Pooka, he agrees. (236)

Orlick is the final reflexive author found in the pages of At Swim-Two-Birds; as with the other authors, Orlick shares physical attributes and stylistic qualities with his creator. In Orlick’s instance, his creator is literally that; Trellis is his father, rather than simply an author that invents a character. By reminding oneself of the possible problems that ensue from simply inventing a


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