Flannery O8217Conner and Grotesque Characters
Flannery O’Conner and Grotesque Characters
One of the most interesting characteristics of Flannery O’Conners writing is her penchant for creating characters with physical or mental disabilities. Though critics sometimes unkindly labeled her a maker of grotesques, this talent for creating flawed characters served her well. In fact, though termed grotesque, O’Conners use of vivid visual imagery when describing people and their shortcomings is the technique that makes her work most realistic. O’Conner herself once remarked that “anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it will be called realistic.”
In O’Conners “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” the villain is a one armed hobo named Tom T. Shiftlet. Using his gift of gab and the promise of “fixing the place up.” He manages to take up on the remote farm of an old woman named Lucynell Crater and her mentally retarded and completely deaf daughter “Lucynell Crater”. The old woman quickly decides that despite his handicap she would like to make Tom her son in law. His goal soon became, fix up the old car he was sleeping in and hightail it out of there with the car and some of the old womans money in his pocket. On the pretense that he would need it for a honeymoon trip, he convinces the old woman to fix the car and give him some cash. The story ends with him marrying the retarded daughter, leaving with her on a honeymoon trip, then abandoning her in a rundown diner on the side of the road.
“Good Country People” is a story about Joy Hopewell, a very well educated young woman living in the rural south. Joy lost a leg in a hunting accident when she was ten and since then had been forced to wear a wooden replacement. She also had a weak heart and it was this affliction that forced her to remain amongst these “good country people” whom she considered to be intellectual inferiors. Though she had great confidence in her intelligence she had very little self-esteem. Joys’ handicap made her feel ugly, so ugly that much to her mothers’ dismay, she had her name legally changed to the ugliest one she could think of, Hulga. One day a traveling bible salesman named Manley Pointer made a sales call and ended up having dinner with the family.