O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge

O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge

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O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge


"Everything That Rises Must Converge," in a sense sums up O'Connor's overall philosophy or theology: that is, that everything which rises above the petty concerns of earth, above materialism, must converge somewhere in an ideal realm, that is, Heaven. The story concerns Julian and his mother and a series of misunderstandings between them. We find that Julian's mother is overweight, rude to other people, particularly to Black people, and very judgmental. Julian in turn spends a lot of his time judging his mother. The story focuses on a bus trip that Julian and his mother are taking to the Y's reducing class, and what happens in the course of that trip.

During the bus trip, Julian's mother openly sympathises with some other white women who don't like "Negroes" on the bus. When a Black man gets on the bus, Julian attempts to be friendly with him and in so doing sees himself as morally superior to his mother. We see here that Julian is being very judgmental. For instance, we find Julian entertaining these thoughts after the man has got off the bus:

He imagined his mother lying desperately ill and his being able to secure only a Negro doctor for her. He toyed with that idea for a few minutes and then dropped it for a momentary vision of himself participating as a sympathiser in a sit-in demonstration. This was possible but he did not linger with it. Instead, he approached the ultimate horror. He brought home a beautiful suspiciously Negroid woman. Prepare yourself, he said. There is nothing you can do about it. This is the woman I have chosen. (15)

It is just shortly after this fantasy that a very large Black woman and her little boy get on and Julian is somewhat delighted because the Negro woman is actually wearing the same hat as his mother, a hat that he has made fun of earlier in the story.

Julian reacts as follows:

His eyes widened.

The vision of the two hats, identical, broke upon him with the radiance of a brilliant sunrise. His face was suddenly lit with joy. He could not believe that Fate had thrust upon his mother such a lesson. He gave a loud chuckle so she would look at him and see that he saw. She turned her eyes on him slowly. The blue in them seemed to have turned a bruised purple.

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(17)

The outcome of the story is that Julian's mother tries to give the woman's little boy a nickel as they get off the bus.

The woman clearly doesn't want that and she knocks Julian's mother down. Julian's mother is left sitting on the sidewalk (20). Julian is quite delighted about this because he thinks his mother has received a lesson. But then he starts to become horrified when she doesn't want to go to the Y, she doesn't want to see him but wants Caroline to come and get her. And then it seems that the mother dies. The end of the story reads thus:

"Help help!" he shouted, but his voice was thin, scarcely a thread of sound. The lights drifted farther away the faster he ran and his feet moved numbly as if they carried him nowhere. The tide of darkness seemed to sweep him back to her, postponing from moment to moment his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow. (23)

In that very last line I think you get the "punch line" of the story ("his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow"): the "message" is basically the Christian one of "judge not lest ye be judged." Julian has judged his mother and now he is being judged because he suddenly realises that he loves her and she's gone. He is unable to reach her, and all the time he's been judging her rather than showing practical evidence of his love for her.
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