Flannery O’Connor uses images of regality as represented by hats, colors, and ironic regal references in the short story “Everything That Rises Must Converge” to symbolize Julian’s mother, and her societal views. She, like the hat, is not as upper class as she would have herself or others believe. In addition, her racist beliefs are challenged when a black woman enters the bus with the very same hat, forcing her to realize that the regal attitude she holds will never be validated, and she will no longer be able to pretend that she is superior to anyone.
The hat, which “looked like a cushion with the stuffing out,” resembles “the dumpy figure” of the mother. In addition, the hat is referred to as “preposterous,” and “ridiculous,” all the ways her son considers her to be. The hat is gaudy and not worth the money she paid for it, but she is certain of its taste just as she is certain how good it looks on her (because the sales lady had told her so), and how superior she is to those at the Y. The sales lady had said that ‘“with that hat, you won’t meet yourself coming or going,” which means that she will not be alike anyone else. Of course, this is not the case, and the black Negress would ultimately be the last person Julian’s mother would wish to meet.
The colors in the hat are extremely significant. Its purple velvet flap creates the image of royalty, and the rest of it, green, represents money. This is the only time that green is mentioned in the story, for money is not something that they have, which even the mother cannot dispute. In addition to the hat, the sky of their once “fashionable” neighborhood is the color of “a dying violet,” and the house...
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... apparently does not realize this: ‘“Most of them in it are not our kind of people,” she said, “but I can be gracious to anybody. I know who I am.”’ Ironically, she is completely unsure of whom she is, and this is why it is so hard for her to come to terms with any of the reality around her.
The importance of the hat becomes most overt when the Negress enters the bus wearing one exactly identical. ‘“That was your black double,”’ says her son. She had, until this point, thought herself greater than most she encountered, whether black or white, and for a working- class black woman to have the same taste as her, in addition to the means by which to attain it, her fragile view of life has been forever shattered. The fact that this “black queen” ends up more powerful than the “white queen” underscores the irony inherent in the main characters delusions of grandeur.
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