Old South vs. New South in O'Conner's Everything That Rises Must Converge

Old South vs. New South in O'Conner's Everything That Rises Must Converge

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Old South vs. New South in O'Conner's Everything That Rises Must Converge


Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" depicts a stifling mother-son relationship in which the conflict is never resolved, or even acknowledged. This relationship is a metaphor which describes the transition from the Old South, with its inherent values used to justify slavery and segregation, to the New South, striving for justice based on equality. Mrs, Chestney (old South) and her son Julian (New South) represent, on an individual scale, the interactions of their corresponding constituencies, "'The world is a mess everywhere... I don't know how we've let it get in this mess", states Mrs, Chestney on the subject of segregation, Unintentionally, she implicates her kind as the party responsible for the tension between Negroes [sic.] and Whites, She is saying, in effect, "We dominated this race of people. Now it has become too difficult for us to maintain that control." Naturally, she feels threatened. Josephine Hendin wrote that:

The desegregation of buses and the general rise of the Negro seem to her so much chaos, a chaos in which the old and the young, the present and the past, must violently collide.

Blacks encroaching upon the power structure which is integral to her behavior have forced her to either reassess her behavior, or substantiate it. She is an old woman, whose meaning to life is reliant upon segregation, and she will, in every case, opt for the latter, In her discourse with her son, Julian, she proudly refers to a great-grandfather who was a slave owner, the tragedy of "half-whites", and, as proof for not riding integrated buses alone, a large Black passenger sitting adjacent to her, reading a newspaper. Her mani...


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...s and is now yearning for a "darky" nurse's care. Only then does Julian react to the circumstances, in a panic. He helplessly watches his mother die, and then realizes how dependent on her he truly is, As the Old South dies, the New South emerges. The descendant cannot sever the tie to its predecessor, nor ignore its effect on the next generation. As a society, our evolution to a point without racism may be a long process.

Works Cited

Feeley, Kathleen, Flannery O'Connor: Voice Of The Peacock. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

Hendin, Josephine. The World of Flannery O'Connor. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1970.

O'Connor, Flannery. Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: The Noonday Press, 1956,

Stephens, Martha. The Question of Flannery O'Connor. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973.

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