Flannery O’Connor’s use of the underlying theme, spirituality-versus-evil, is represented in the short stories A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and Revelation. Flannery OConnors Success comes from the use of her beliefs in religion and God, and from the Womens College of Georgia, where she studied social sciences (Friedman and Clark 38). OConnor expresses God in all three of these short stories, however she also writes about the intoxication with Godis Satan (Hyman, pp. 32-37).
In this critical essay over the three works by Flannery OConnor listed above, I will discuss the formal commonalities of pirituality-versus-evil and how OConnors background in religion impacts Revelation. In Flannery OConnors A Good Man Is Hard to Find, one is struck by the unexpected violence at the end of the story. No one would expect to read the worst of OConnors tragic eventsthe extermination of an entire family (Pawlson 86). However, if one re-reads the story a second time, one will see definite signs that foreshadow the grotesque ending.
In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, OConnor demonstrates the natural forces of spirituality-versus-evil; the grandmother reacts in a kind manner when she is hreatened with sheer terror by the Misfit (Friedman and Lawson 34). OConnor uses the symbolic character Jesus Christ, to equal the amount of evil in this story. Jesus! Youve got good blood! I know you wouldnt shoot a lady! (OConnor 362). The story begins with the typical nuclear family being challenged by the grandmother who doesn’t want to take the vacation to Florida.
She has read about a crazed killer by the name of The Misfit who is on the run heading for Florida. Unfortunately, she is ignored by every member of the family except for the little girl, June Star, who can read the grandmother like an open ook. The fact that she admonishes Bailey, her son, of this Misfit and “what it [the Journal] says he did to these people” foreshadows the evil actions that will happen to them (OConnor 352). Additionally, the morning of the trip the grandmother is the first one in the car ready to travel as June Star predicted she would be, “She wouldnt stay at home for a million bucks.
She has to go everywhere we go” (OConnor 118). This can be read as a direct foreshadowing of the grandmothers death. As one reads the story, one wonders why every time Bobby Lee and Hiram take someone into the forest, they never come back. Eventually, the whole family is taken to die. June Stars comment that the grandmother goes everywhere the family goes can be read as an indication that she will meet the same end that they did. Furthermore, although the grandmother did not want to go to Florida, she ironically dresses in her Sunday best.
It is ironic because when people die, they are often buried in their Sunday best. She was dressed very nicely with a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dressHer collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace. (OConnor 353). All of the events that have taken place so far re foreshadowing evil directly on the family. As the trip progresses, the children reveal themselves as funny, spoiled brats. O’Connor’s desire to illustrate the lost respect for the family and elders among the young is quite apparent in her illustrations of the children.
One evidently notices another foreshadowing image when the family “passed by a cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island” (OConnor 354). It is not an accident that the number of graves “five or six” matches the exact number of people in the car. There are 5 people and a baby. Since a baby is not exactly a full complete person, the obscureness of the number of graves being “five or six” is appropriate. The grandmothers reference to the plantation as “gone with the wind” can be seen as an image symbolizing the familys state at the end of the story (OConnor 354).
Their souls are “gone with the wind” as well upon death. Similarly, it is almost comical how OConnor sets her readers up for the ending of the story. For example, the name of the town where the Misfit kills them is “Toombsboro” (OConnor 356). The word Toombsboro can be divided into two words: Tombs and Bury. Put together with a slight southern ccent gives the word “Tombsbury” which is very close to “Toombsboro”. Another quite interesting imagery is when the grandmother asks the Misfit, “What did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time? ” (OConnor 361).
His answer further foreshadows the death of the family. He says, “Turn to the right, it was a wall, looking up again at the cloudless sky. Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor” (OConnor 361). This description, although used for a jail cell, it could also apply to a tight grave. Wherever a soul looks, they will see a wall, indicating where the grandmother will be once the Misfit is finished with them. Additionally, another foreshadowing image is shown in the Misfit and the grandmothers conversation towards the end.
He says “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another aint punished at all? ” (OConnor 362). As readers, we can see that the Misfit will kill the grandmother. After all she “aint punished” for her crimes of hypocrisy and lying. As shown later in the essay, the Misfit plays God and inflicts punishment where he deems necessary. Finally, the grandmother iterates in her conversation with the Misfit about the importance of prayer. I know you come from nice people! Pray! (OConnor 362). Her emphasis on the importance of prayer symbolizes her realization of death.
It is a common Christian practice for a priest to spend the last hours of a dying persons life with them. In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the Misfit represents an angered priest, or even Jesus. The Grandmother reminds the Misfit of the actuality of evil and the need for God (Farmer 97). It does not say this in the text, although it is a fact that is understood in the closing lines of the story. The Misfit murders the grandmother, he says, Its no real pleasure in life (OConnor 363). He also plays a judge, jury and executioner to the randmother. This short story is a primary reflection upon OConnors spirituality-versus-evil writings.
Flannery OConnor uses strong imagery to foreshadow evil to her readers the inevitable ending of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find. ” She first gives her readers an inkling of the ending by mentioning the Misfits evil murderous tendencies, peaking her readers curiosity. She then uses numerous images such as the grandmothers dress, the graveyard, and the conversation with the Misfit to further feed our curiosity. Her foreshadowing images are both strong and obscure, so as not to spoil the surprising ending of the story. Flannery O’Connor seemed to have great time writing Everything That Rises Must Converge.
It is very fast moving and a little satirical. This story reflects on her childhood and beliefs as a Christian. Unlike A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge has a few symbolic meaning of spirituality towards God. Flannery OConnor says, I write the way I dobecause I am Catholic (Wyatt 66). All her stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to accept it (Wyatt 66). In this story, the mother would be defined as a person who is not willing to accept it, and the same pplies to the grandmother in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Wyatt 66).
OConnor surprises us at the end of the story with the death of the protagonist, the mother. There is an underlying understanding of spirituality-versus-evil in the plot of Everything That Rises Must Converge. First of all, there is a racist bias in which we would consider an evil trait in our present time. However, Flannery OConnor wrote all of her stories and novels in the mid-twentieth century when it was not considered to be an evil trait. During that time (World War II), it was a commonality between people to believe in racism. The mother is an overweight lady of some age over fifty who is very opinionated about everything (OConnor 340).
Her weird hat that she fusses all over about, is something that seems to get everybody’s attention. It was a hideous hat. A purple velvet flap came down on one side of it and stood up on the other; the rest of it was green and looked like a cushion with the stuffing out (OConnor 341). This hat is symbolic to the story because later in the story, a huge black woman with a small child sits in front of her on the bus wearing the same hat (Magill 735). Realizing this, he is astonished and feels put down by someone who she downgrades in society. The mother gives a lot of emphasis on the formal things.
She finds it preposterous to be accompanied into town by a son that is not wearing a tie, and she cannot show up for her weight loss class if she is not wearing hat and gloves; for that is the only way that she knows. Those little things seem to be the ones that give her status, because those are the ones that gave status to the “ladies” when she was a young girl. We can also compare that the central character in this story is very similar to the grandmother in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Her son, Julian, whose aspects and viewpoints on life dominate the story, considers the black womans hat as a humorous insult to his mother.
Julian is a person very unlike his mother. He wants to be different from his mother because she represents everything from the South which affronts his sense of decency and decorum (Browning 101). He is a college graduate and is very much in touch with himself. You could also say that he is also a very open minded person that knows what kind of world he lives in (OConnor 341). He makes it a point opposing his mother all the time and rying to bring her head down from the clouds to the harsh reality that she does not live in the plantation anymore with the all of the slaves around.
Furthermore, he is always looking for a way to teach his mother a lesson, and he usually would prefer a cruel one (Brinkmeyer 70). Julian has images of violence a few times in the story, as he could smack her as he would his own child, only he would smack her with pleasure (OConnor 347). Another example of Julians evil is when he gazes at his mother, and describes her as being purple-faced, shrunken to the dwarf-like proportions of her moral nature, sitting like a mummy eneath the ridiculous manner of her hat (OConnor 347).
Julians gaze is cruelly reductive, distorting his mother into a thoroughly grotesque figure (something is made clear throughout the story that she is not) devoid of humanity (Brinkmeyer 70). OConnor presents Julian as the evil one in this story, which relates to the Misfit in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The fact that the black lady is wearing the same hideous hat shows us that there is a mixing of cultures; things are not the same as they used to be. The colored lady seems to have an attitude on the bus, although the mother does not see it in any spect.
She soon finds this out when she tries to give the child a penny, and the black lady swings at her with her purse, knocking the mother down. Again, OConnor uses the element of evil to foreshadow that something tragic is about to happen. Julian feels superior to his mother after this incident, until he realizes that she is having a stroke. The mother dies shortly after the black woman knocked her down. Julian feels sorrow and guilt when he realizes the events that have taken place, and he realizes that what he detests about his mother, he also loves and longs for (Browning 101).