Southern Misfit: Flannery O'Connor's Tales May Be Unusual, but It's Precisely Their Dark, Strange Nature That Points to God's Grace

By Rosean, Ted | U.S. Catholic, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Southern Misfit: Flannery O'Connor's Tales May Be Unusual, but It's Precisely Their Dark, Strange Nature That Points to God's Grace


Rosean, Ted, U.S. Catholic


THIRTY YEARS AGO, THE FINE THEOLOGIAN John Shea, teaching a course on redemption, introduced me to Flannery O'Connor's fiction. I found her stories violent, shocking, funny, and awfully readable--but they left me, as a young student without a great deal of real life experience, confused about what exactly the stories had to do with redemption.

These were dark dramas with ugly characters and gloomy endings. There was a lot more Good Friday to these tales than Easter Sunday. For me, a story about redemption ought to have a happy ending. It should not so much be about an escaped con who murders an entire family out on a country drive, or about a traveling Bible salesman who steals a young woman's wooden leg.

What's so Christian about this? Before redemption there is sin, Shea explained. You can't get to Easter Sunday without going through Good Friday. He quoted O'Connor: "Evil is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be endured." She has been in my blood since.

A CRADLE CATHOLIC, FLANNERY O'CONNOR DWELLED in the depths of the Protestant South for most of her life, living with her mother on her family's dairy farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. There she wrote her most memorable stories and raised peacocks because the "king of the birds" fascinated her.

She attended Mass daily at Sacred Heart Church in town and traveled to universities to lecture as her fame grew. Her mobility was limited when she was diagnosed with lupus in 1950 at age 25. It was the same disease that killed her father a month before her 16th birthday.

The affliction hardly limited her writing and provided no basis for self-pity. An extensive collection of published personal letters she wrote to friends and literary correspondents reveals what she really cared about--her work--and minimizes her disease with a comical, self-effacing manner.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Working furiously from her deathbed, she completed Everything That Rises Must Converge, a collection of short stories many critics consider her finest work. "I have drug another out of myself and I enclose it," she wrote a friend on July 15, 1964. Just two weeks later, at 39, Flannery O'Connor died.

Her interest in chickens, and later peafowl, revealed something about the characters she created. "I favored those with one green eye and one orange or with over-long necks and crooked combs. I wanted one with three legs or three wings." She had an eye for the freak, the monstrous, the twisted--not altogether different from the type of company our Lord kept.

The rural Southern Bible Belt provided a fertile crop of these studies, whom she exaggerated to make her tales come alive. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Southern Misfit: Flannery O'Connor's Tales May Be Unusual, but It's Precisely Their Dark, Strange Nature That Points to God's Grace
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.