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Flannery O’Connor Didn't Care If You Liked Her Work

Discussion in 'One Bread, One Body - Catholic' started by Michie, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. Michie

    Michie Human rights begin in the womb. Supporter

    United States
    Flannery O’Connor once received a letter from a college professor asking her, on behalf of his students, to intervene in their interpretative conundrum over her now-canonic short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Most readers of O’Connor will know this story, so I will briefly sketch it: Essentially, the professor and students were convinced that the second half of the story, following the car crash, in which the family meets the Misfit and his gang, must be a dream conjured by Bailey, the driver of the car. O’Connor replies:

    The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be. If it were a legitimate interpretation, the story would be little more than a trick and its interest would be simply for abnormal psychology. I am not interested in abnormal psychology.

    There is a change of tension from the first part of the story to the second where the Misfit enters, but this is no lessening of reality.

    One more letter bears mentioning. In O’Connor’s 1960 essay “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” she writes:

    I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up.

    Over the past 20 years, whenever I teach O’Connor’s stories, I provide the students with these two letters. I provide them for two reasons:

    1. Because they contain perhaps the clearest articulation of her ethic when it comes to the way she regarded her characters and,
    2. It shows students how she regarded her readers, especially those who had the temerity to question the meaning of her work.
    Characters are not puppets deployed to stand in for or represent larger ideas or issues, and the meaning of any story is not something that can be arrived at intellectually; it must be felt.

    Continued below.
    Flannery O’Connor Didn't Care If You Liked Her Work
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  2. grandvizier1006

    grandvizier1006 Still a human by God's grace Supporter

    United States
    I've got her whole short story collection. Flannery O'Connor really "got" the South and the various nominal Christians who lived there (and unfortunately many of them still do, but I'd like to think that we have gotten slightly better since her time). She also had TONS to say about the writing craft, and as an aspiring writer myself it's great to see that there was a Christian writer who tirelessly and unapologetically advocating for the Christian worldview.