First Confession By O\'Connor

In Frank O’Connor’s story "First Confession", Mrs. Ryan and the priest
are different. Mrs. Ryan and the priest approach Jackie differently and have
different affects on him. Mrs. Ryan makes Jackie feel like a sinner in her
approach to him. She teaches him how to examine his heart by asking himself a
few questions, "Did we take the name of the Lord, our God in Vain? Did we
honor our father and mother? Did we love our neighbors as ourselves? Did we
covet our neighbors goods?"(614). This made Jackie feel like he is a sinner
because he feels that he was not honoring his grandmother and feels that he
coveted Nora’s penny she got every week from their grandmother. Mrs. Ryan
affects Jackie by making him feel that confession is scary. After telling her
story about the man who made a bad confession, Jackie becomes scared of going to
confession. Mrs. Ryan is trying to scare Jackie so that he won’t make a bad
confession but instead she causes him to become scared of going to confession.

Jackie becomes so scared that he starts to think, "...I would make a bad
confession and then die in the night and be continually coming back and burning
people’s furniture" (616). The priest uses an approach of understanding. He
understands Jackie’s thought of being a sinner, for instance, he tells Jackie
that there are a lot of people he would like to go after with a bread knife as
well. This had to make Jackie feel better about not being a sinner because the
priest had thought the same thing as he had. For Jackie says that he tried to
kill his grandmother and Nora and the priest says, "...there’s a lot of
people I’d like to do the same to..."(618). The priest affects Jackie by
comforting him. When the priest catches Nora clipping Jackie across the ear and
yelled at her for doing this, Jackie feels comforted because no one had ever
defended him against her before. The priest also comforts him by telling Jackie,

"...wait now until I’m finished with the old ones."(617). Jackie now feels
special because the priest is going to take time with him. The priest comforts

Jackie to where he is not scared of confession anymore. Jackie says, "The
relief of it was really enormous."(617). Between Mrs. Ryan and the priest, the
method the priest uses works better than Mrs. Ryan’s does. Teaching people
religion by scaring them does not work because someone is not going to want to
learn more about it if he or she is going to become scared. The way the priest
approaches and comforts Jackie is a much better method. If a person is comforted
and approached in a since of understanding, it would be more likely that he or
she would want to listen to the person trying to teach him or her.