Comparative Analysis of Jealousy in Short Stories

Categories: Oedipus The King


Jealousy, a powerful and complex emotion, often plays a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of family relationships. This essay delves into two literary works, namely 'My Oedipus Complex' by Frank O'Connor and 'The Half Brothers' by Elizabeth Gaskell, to explore the manifestation of jealousy within family structures. By analyzing key quotes and thematic elements, we aim to unravel the impact of jealousy on characters and the subsequent development of the narratives.

Jealousy in 'My Oedipus Complex'

In 'My Oedipus Complex,' the protagonist Larry grapples with profound feelings of jealousy, primarily directed towards his father.

The quote, "It seemed to me that she deserved everything it all," reflects Larry's determination to possess his mother's undivided attention. The metaphorical use of "I didn't want to drink from Mother's saucer" suggests a deep-seated metaphorical jealousy, emphasizing the prepared nature of Larry's speech.

Furthermore, Larry's spiteful tone towards his mother in the second quote reveals the complex nature of familial relationships. As Larry realizes the role his mother played in evoking his intense jealousy, the narrative unfolds with nuanced emotional depth, inviting readers to reflect on the intricacies of family dynamics.

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Jealousy in 'The Half Brothers'

'The Half Brothers' by Elizabeth Gaskell also explores jealousy within the familial context. William Preston's jealousy towards Gregory is evident in the quote, "He took a positive dislike to Gregory - he was so jealous of the ready love that always gushed out like a spring of fresh water when he came near." This simile vividly captures the intensity of William's jealousy, providing readers with a poignant image of familial strife.

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The story's exploration of jealousy mirrors real-life complexities, making it relatable for readers. The plot unfolds with a rich tapestry of familial emotions, showcasing the impact of jealousy on characters and their relationships.

Comparative Analysis of the Stories

While both stories share thematic elements of jealousy within family relationships, they exhibit distinct differences in terms of setting, humor, and narrative style. One notable similarity is the absence of a parent at the beginning of both stories, setting the stage for character development. However, the stories diverge in their resolutions, providing readers with a varied exploration of familial dynamics.

The settings of 'The Half Brothers' and 'My Oedipus Complex' may seem dissimilar, being set in Victorian Cumberland and post-World War I Ireland, respectively. Still, the shared rural backdrop provides a rustic charm that influences the characters' experiences. Despite the differences in time and location, both stories elicit unique responses from readers, showcasing the transformative power of setting on narrative reception.

Humor as a Narrative Element

A significant departure between the stories lies in their use of humor. 'My Oedipus Complex' employs humor to a considerable extent, lightening the narrative and portraying unfortunate events with a comedic touch. Larry's ironic reflections on his perceived maturity provide a source of amusement for readers, highlighting the gap between his self-perception and reality.

In contrast, 'The Half Brothers' maintains a serious tone throughout, devoid of humor. This absence defines the story as a tragic narrative, underlining the depth of familial struggles faced by the characters. The humor in 'My Oedipus Complex' serves to mock the narrator, creating an ironic and entertaining layer to the narrative.

Learning and Moral Lessons

Both stories share a common thread in presenting characters who undergo significant learning experiences. In 'My Oedipus Complex,' Larry and his father learn the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, ultimately transcending their initial conflicts. Similarly, 'The Half Brothers' sees William Preston realizing the consequences of his jealousy and the narrator learning from his father's mistakes.

These narratives convey a moral lesson centered around forgiveness, offering readers insights into the complexities of familial relationships. By identifying with the characters' experiences, readers are presented with opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth.


In conclusion, jealousy within family dynamics serves as a rich and complex theme in literary narratives. 'My Oedipus Complex' and 'The Half Brothers' provide nuanced explorations of this emotion, revealing its impact on characters and their relationships. The stories, while sharing similarities, differ in terms of setting, humor, and narrative tone. Through their use of descriptive language and powerful storytelling, Frank O'Connor and Elizabeth Gaskell engage readers in reflections on the universal theme of familial jealousy, offering valuable insights into the intricacies of human relationships.

Updated: Dec 15, 2023
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Comparative Analysis of Jealousy in Short Stories. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Comparative Analysis of Jealousy in Short Stories essay
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