For most authors, spirituality flows through their writing in their own unique style. For Flannery O'Connor, her rich Roman Catholic background is reflected through her writing often with the usage of violence; most notably in the story, "Everything that Rises Must Converge "and "Revelation". In the form of violence, O' Connor effectively makes her characters realize their current situation, hence reality. Much so, this is usually following a series of violence that the protagonist will experience a state of epiphany or redemption. Flanner O' Connor, herself, said "I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace" ("On Her Own Work" 108).
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Mary Flannery O' Connor was born on March 25, 1925, to Edward F. and Regina O'Connor in Savannah, Georgia (Gooch 14). This was the time when the South was predominately white and endorsed racial segregation. All of Flannery O'Connor's stories take place in the South and she also writes about the issue of race in some of her stories: "The Artificial Nigger," "Everything That Rises Must Converge," and "Revelation" (Grimshaw 48). In addition, her growing up in the South, "a region that makes constant demands on its inhabitants 'senses" (Grimshaw 15), explained the usage of sights, sounds and smells in O'Connor's work. It is therefore conclusive that her writing is mainly influenced by her Southern origin and Roman Catholic beliefs.
O' Connor was born and raised a Catholic, and in the beginning of her life attended a religious school, St. Vincent's Grammar School for Girls (Gooch 28). In her first few years of education the grades she achieved already foreshadowed her career as a brilliant writer and novelist. In addition, at a young age her religious devotion and cartooning also contributed to her consistent themes and elements in her stories. At the age of six she already drew her first ironic cartoon (32). It was a bird grounded, while a child was flying above; a simple role reversal. In her first year of schooling she scored highest in Catechism and Reading with a 98 and 93 respectively (32). Her academic excellence in religion and reading at such a young age revealed her writing style and made it understandable that her writing would reflect her beliefs.
Flannery O' Connor was a highly religious person. She grew up with a strong religious background. She strongly believed in sin and redemption, which are shown throughout her stories. When she was diagnosed with lupus disease, which had already claimed her father's life, she devoted her life to spread grace and her words as a devout Roman Catholic (Grimshaw 3). Essentially along with redemption and grace in her works, she used violence as a vehicle to lead to the climactic moment. For her readers, O'Connor wanted God to be felt through her work. In her essay "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," she mentioned that," Good fiction is concrete and concreteness implies the tangible things in life." O'Connor saw God as intangible, "therefore, she strives to make His presence felt through the sense, where she says human knowledge begins" (67). O'Connor aimed to make God flow through her writing, and she used violence as a medium, something to stimulate the reader's senses. Violence can be interpreted in so many ways depending on the details given. Flannery O'Conner she used violence as a force to show something more drastic and surprising that will stay with the reader. Overall, her spirituality (redemption and grace) is carried to the reader through the use of violence. It is not only effective because of the memorable qualities of violence, but it also gives ways to revelation.
In the stories, "Everything that Rises Must Converge" and "Revelation," both have an episode of violence. However, although surprisingly "Revelation" does not end with a sudden death like "Everything That Rises Must Converge," both stories still contain the same racial biases. Both stories introduce at least one of their characters as an unsympathetic and hubristic person. In fact, many of O'Connor's characters are "primitive and grotesque." They struggle for a sense of significance in a scientific/industrial world that undermines the human capacity for meaningful relationships and defines humanity not in terms of spirituality but as animals, or worse, machines" (ix). Basically, as a reader we find many things that are qualities that are unlikeable and that their lack of union with God. O'Conner's stories are ultimately about the a revelation thought the means of violence. Since the connection with God is so important in O'Conner's life, she feels that through God would people be able to accept grace and become better people.
In "Everything that Rises Must Converge," it is noticeable that Julian is continuously talking to her mother in a condescending and insulting tone. Right in the beginning of the story, as his mother is getting ready to go take the bus to her "free" weight-loss class and as she was putting on her hat, "she kept saying, 'Maybe I shouldn't have paid that for it. No, I shouldn't have. I'll take it off and return it tomorrow. I shouldn't have bought it'" (O'Conner 197). Following after, Julian reveals his feelings to the reader and from there the reader could already see Julian is annoyed and just wants to get this over with. "Julian raised his eyes to heaven. 'Yes, you should have bought it,' he said. Ê»Put it on and let's go.' It was a hideous hat" (197). Julian gives us the sense that he does not seem to show care for her mother and instead is hoping that his mother would "listen" to him more often. This is because this behavior suggests that his mother is seemingly in her own world, while Julian is annoyed of it and hopes that his mother would stop acting this way. Right off, the protagonist is introduced as someone who's not so fond about his/her mother and doesn't treat her like she should be treated. In addition, he seems to want to rebel against his mother when he provoked his mother by taking off his tie and sitting next to a black person on the bus.
There is a reason why Julian has been doing this. Julian's mother relies on the past too much to identify herself and her son Julian. In other words, Julian's mother believes appearance defines everything about a person, and that it will not change. This is suggested when Julian and her started arguing about knowing oneself and ones' place in society. Julian said, "Knowing who you are is good for one generation only. You haven't the foggiest idea where you stand now or who you are" (198). His mother responds by informing Julian's of his rich slave-owning ancestries, and how "high class" they were. She then says, the African Americans are better off as slaves, and then makes a remark about feeling sorry for half-whites. Then when Julian takes off his tie, her mother quickly responded, "You look like a - thug" (200). Evidently, his mother is very conscious about appearance and believes that it defines everything. O' Conner gives her a "sin" and it is supported in the text when Julian tells himself he will "sit down beside a Negro, in reparation as it were for his mother's sin" (199). Julian wants to urge her mother to "get real" with the current generation.
Later on during the story, when the mother and Julian are sitting on the bus stop, a big black woman with her four-year old son board the bus. Coincidentally she also has on a "hideous hat" (203) and she also gets off the same stop as Julian and his mother. Then when the mother tries to give the little boy a penny, because she "lumped all children, black and white, into the common category, 'cute'"(203), she gets swung at with a purse from the black woman as a response for Julian's mother's effort. It seems as the big black woman took Julian's mother's effort as an act of pity, which is why she responded this way. Her violent response eventually leads to Julian's mother suffering a stroke shortly afterwards and the mother dies. Before her death, Julian once again remarks that his mother deserved it when he told her not to try to give the boy a penny. However, after his mother collapses and Julian realizes she had suffered more than just a blow, he realizes what he has done. Not only did he look down on his mother, but he's essentially the same as her mother. O'Conner throws a twist in the end that when the mother died and the readers witnessed the revelation and redemption through the use of violence.
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Just like in "Everything That Rises Must Converge," Mrs. Turpin, the protagonist of the "Revelation," also judges others by their appearance. She classifies people according to their race and whether they are wealthy or not based on their property. In the beginning of the story, Mrs. Turpin chooses to start a conversation with a woman who seems appealing to her eyes as she waits at the doctor's office. She feels sympathetic towards those who she considers to be underneath her on the social ladder. One example is Mary Grace, who is an unattractive and fat college student. "Mrs. Turpin felt an awful pity for the girl, though she thought it was one thing to be ugly and another to act ugly" (196). Constantly throughout the story, Mrs. Turpin feels thankful to Jesus for making her white and privileged which suggests her Christian belief and possibly O'Connor's attempt to show hers.
However, even though she is of Christian faith, O'Connor instills violence into the story that otherwise says so. Mrs. Turpin's perspective on others does not agree with Christianity, essentially which is because "she reveals an overwhelming pride in her position within the community and in relation to God" (Grimshaw 63). Hubris is a sin under God' eyes and ultimately is O'Connor's belief. After the fat teenager named Mary Grace throws a book at Mrs. Turpin, the violent scene instills a sort of awakening call to Mrs. Turpin, hence a revelation. When Mrs. Turpin escapes the scene and returns home she sits by herself and goes into thinking about what has happened. She did not understood why she was the target of such crime and insult, because the teenager even called her a "wart hog" (207). Mrs. Turpin questions God, and shortly after she experiences a vision with that God, everyone is equal and there is no social or economic hierarchy. With this, O' Conner effectively utilizes the scene of violence to provoke a sense of revelation for her characters. Not only that, but her religious background is seen in context because excessive pride and greed is against her beliefs. She believes that the source of these sins is the lack of union with God.
In both stories it is obvious that all her characters that exhibit a flaw was excessive pride. It can therefore be safe to conclude that in O'Connor's life as a Southerner, she witnessed the people downgrading the African Americans. These people with excessive pride and sense of supremacy can be seen in O' Connor's work. O'Connor decided to deal with this through the use of violence which would eventually lead to a revelation. In "Everything that Rises Must Converges," it is relevant that the violence eventually led to Julian's realization of what he has done. In "Revelation" the fat teenager attacking Mrs. Turpin caused her to questioned God and eventually to receive an epiphany. Even though Mrs. Turpin was a firm believer of Christ, her views did not agree with O'Connor. In the end, both characters ended up with some sort of epiphany.
The use of violence in O'Connor could also be seen as a way to leave her beliefs in us. Violence does essentially "scar" one's life depending on its severity. Her use of violence is essentially also her world imprinted on the pages of her book. The violence represents the sins committed by humans and in the end violence is used as a medium to drive her words across to the reader. Her life as a Roman Catholic and Southerner is apparent in these two stories, "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and "Revelation." The voices of the racial biases and the spirituality both reflect O'Conner's life. All in all, O' Conner's life heavily influences her work as a writer, novelist, and fundamentalist.
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