O'Pinions & O'Bservations O' O'Bscure O'Briania

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The Lemon

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2000 5:25 AM

The door is open for discussion of Patrick O'Brian's short story, "The Lemon." This is a wonderful story for those who don't like his other short stories (and those who do like them as well).

- Susan Wenger

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2000 9:12 AM

There were two words in "The Lemon" I had to look up: I'll share with you the fruits of my labors:

Fou rire = crazy chuckle

cachinnation = laughing too loudly or too much

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 9:00 AM

Patrick O'Brian has a way of describing a feeling or sensation in a unique and original way. He picks up a sensation we've all had but don't find the words to talk about it to others; but POB writes about it so clearly that we are instantly there. Such a paragraph occurs in "The Lemon:"

"This morning it was like that. I was reading, and between the paragraphs the associations piled up, so that I was thinking on two or three separate levels: that is normal enough; every man does it who talks, and at the same time thinks of what he is going to say next, and at the same time bears in mind that he must not stay more than five minutes because he has an appointment, and at the same time sees a creature flying and says in some inner compartment, "that is a wasp: it might sting." It is normal, and with practice it can be developed."

Lovely description. We've all felt that sensation - have you ever seen it so well described?

- Susan

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified." -
Patrick O'Brian

From: Jean A
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 12:13 PM

So POB returns once more to the themes of madness and self-delusion in the guise of self-knowledge.

Am I correct in assuming that the story -teller intends to kill himself?

Jean A.

From: Rowen84@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 1:49 PM

Am I correct in assuming that the story -teller intends to kill himself?

That's how I read it. That's how he will regain control from the 'unconscious mind' which is evil and has taken possession. I think the theme of control is extremely important to POB - witness Stephen - and this is another story where he explores obsession with control of his life, and especially of his emotions and his unhappiness, which he 'controls' by cutting off and isolating himself.

"Objectivity", on which he places such importance, is another form of 'control'. By remaining objective he refuses to allow "dishonesty" of skewed perceptions. (also themes that reappear in Stephen.) Of course, he's nutty as a fruitcake and misses that little detail in his "objective" assessment, but otherwise.... he's in complete control. Or so he imagines.

I wonder if the desperately unhappy, mad Laforge is in reality the speaker? And is the reference to "Denise who made me ill" a suggestion that he is suffering from the madness of syphilis?


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