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Man of the House


Frank O'Connor

Study Guide

General Questions:


What is the general plot of the story?


Who are some of the major characters of the story?


Who are some of the minor characters of the story?


The story is written in the ___________________ point of view?


What is the setting of the story?

Analytical questions: (use clear evidence to prove your response)

1.       What family role has Sullivan taken in the beginning of the story?

2.       How is Sullivan playing his role and is he suitable for the role he has taken?

3.       Why does Sullivan’s mother feel guilty for asking Sullivan’s help?

4.       How does Sullivan feel about his mother? Does he need her or finds her a nuisance?

5.       How do you think Sullivan feels about going to school?

6.       Can you show any evidence of Sullivan having any early childhood characteristics?

7.       Is there any evidence that Sullivan fears that his mother would die?

8.       Give some evidence that Sullivan is torn between being a child and a grown up? (being irresponsible/ being responsible)

9.       What promise does Sullivan make to the church and why can he not fulfill his promise?

10.   What family role does the mother play at the beginning of the story and does this role change at the end?

11.   What is Sullivan’s first name?

In text analysis:

1.       “I wasn’t a malicious child, by any means, but I liked to be able to take out my comforts and study them by the light of other’s misfortunes.” What does Sullivan mean by this statement?

2.       “Write it down,” I said. “If I haven’t it written down, I might forget it. And put “strong” in big letters. What will I get for dinner? Eggs?”

Why does Sullivan order his mother to write down her requests and why does Sullivan decide on eggs? What can you say about Sullivan’s tone of voice?

3.       When Sullivan passes his school on the way to the chemist he says, “I went up a short distance and stood there for ten minutes in quiet contemplation.”

He continues by saying, “I could have stood there all day. Of al the profound and simple pleasures of those days, that was the richest.”

Why do you think Sullivan is contemplating about and why does he talk about school as if it is a thing of the past?

4.       Why does Sullivan regret that he did not ask the man at the pub for half a crown? Who gave him the idea and why did he not ask at that time?

5.       Why was Sullivan upset when the doctor says, “We don’t mind them when we have them,’ he added, to my mother ‘and then we spend the rest of our lives regretting it.”

What does the doctor mean by this and why did Sullivan hope that the doctor had not said such a thing?

6.       ‘She might have consumption,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘That’s what my sister that died last year had. This is a tonic for my other sister. She has to have tonics all the time. Is it nice where you live?’

What is the little girl’s impression of illness and death? Does she think tonics work?

7.       “I have a penny,” I said boastfully?

Why does Sullivan announce his wealth?

8.       Why is Sullivan swept into the temptation of drinking up the cough mixture?

9.       Why does Sullivan cry when he drinks up all the cough mixture? Who does he blame?

10.   Why did the sunlight, that Sullivan felt would have made him happy later become a dark, “vast, alien, cruel world.”

11.   Why did Sullivan tell the truth to his mother even though he first says, “He lost the medicine”? Why did he not take the girl’s advice and lie?

12.   What do you think is the significance of the cathedral and what Sullivan hoped to do on his way back? Why does Sullivan feel guilty that he had spent his one-penny on sweets and not to light a candle for the Virgin Mary?

Analytical Questions:


Innocence lost can never be gained. How true is this statement in the story “Man of the House?”


Children are very sensitive towards how the adults around them see and treat them. Using the story “Man of the House” show how this statement is true.  \


Children seem to emulate their parents and behave according to how their parents behave towards them. How true is this statement in the story “Man of the house?”


The lack of a father figure affects the emotional growth of a child. How is this shown in the story “Man of the House”?


A child brought up in a fragmented family will face difficulty growing up? How true is this statement in the story “Man of   the House”?