Religion in the Works of Flannery O'Connor

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Religion in the Works of Flannery O'Connor

Religion is a pervasive theme in most of the literary works of the late Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor. Four of her short stories in particular deal with the relationship between Christianity and society in the Southern Bible Belt: "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "The River," "Good Country People," and "Revelation." Louis D. Rubin, Jr. believes that the mixture of "the primitive fundamentalism of her region, [and] the Roman Catholicism of her faith . . ." makes her religious fiction both well-refined and entertaining (70-71). O'Connor's stories give a grotesque and often stark vision of the clash between traditional Southern Christian values and the ever-changing social scene of the twentieth century. Three of the main religious ingredients that lend to this effect are the presence of divine meanings, revelations of God, and the struggle between the powers of Satan and God.

The divine symbols in O'Connor's works tend to be mostly apocalyptic in nature, exhibiting drastic cases of societal breakdown in a religious context, but occasionally, they show prophetic hope. John Byars states that:

She presents two contradictory images of society in most of her fiction: one in which the power and prevalence of evil seem so deeply embedded that only destruction may root it out, and another in which the community or even an aggregate of individuals, though radically flawed, may discover within itself the potential for regeneration. (34)

In all four of the mentioned stories, this presence of Christian signs-of-the-times can be seen. Set in the early fifties, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" tells of the murder of a vacationing Georgia family by an escaped felon called the Misfit. ...

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...Norman. "Dostoevskian Vision in Flannery O'Connor's `Revelation.'" The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin 16 (1987): 16-22.

O'Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, 1990.

Rubin, Louis D., Jr. "Flannery O'Connor and the Bible Belt." The Added Dimension: The Art and Mind of Flannery O'Connor. Ed. Melvin J. Friedman and Lewis A. Lawson. New York: Fordham UP, 1966. 49-71.

Scott, Nathan A., Jr. "Flannery O'Connor's Testimony." The Added Dimension: The Art and Mind of Flannery O'Connor. Ed. Melvin J. Friedman and Lewis A. Lawson. New York: Fordham UP, 1966. 138-56.

Spivey, Ted R. "Flannery O'Connor's View of God and Man." Flannery O'Connor. Ed. Robert E. Reiter. St. Louis: B. Herder, 1966. 111-18.

Wood, Ralph C. "Flannery O'Connor, Martin Heidegger, and Modern Nihilism." The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin 21 (1992): 100-18.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how byars views the misfit as an apocalyptic symbol because of his denial of christ and his brutal shooting of the family.
  • Cites mcmillan, norman, "dostoevskian vision in flannery o'connor's revelation."
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