Thenature and purpose of evil/violence in Flannery O`Connor`s stories
Therecurring themes of violence and despair are evident upon readingFlannery’s short stories. It is fascinating for a reader to studyFlannery’s short stories. Getting to understand what drove her touse this unique style of writing is more interesting however. Foreach short story, almost the same elements of violence to reveal themain characters inner self appear. O’Connor’s struggle withviolence and evil comes out in many instances of the short storiesshe wrote. In each story, however, her unique prowess in writing doesnot fail to impress readers and keeps them glued to the stories.Critics of Flannery’s work feel that” her literature isunbelievably violent and harsh characteristically concluding withfatalities or emotionally ruined individuals” (Pence 1). O’Connorstates that violence used literary is capable of returning charactersto reality as well as prepare them for the grace moment.
Mostof stories by Flannery have the epiphanal moment accompanied byviolence, evil and destruction. O’Connor was born catholic anddeath was a brother to his imagination. She cannot imagine writingstories that fail to captivate death properly or it’s foreshadow. Never does O’Connor use violence in the short stories for its ownsake or as a logical extension of action. Each time, the use ofviolence brings out another meaning or lesson to those involved. Thecharacters involved bring out a relevant message to the readers. Inthe three stories, agood man is hard to find, revelation, good country people, forexample, the main characters experience violence. The violence leadsthem to learn an imperative emotional lesson.
Inagood man is hard to find,the final scene reveals literal wicked truths whereby the grandmothercompletely wrapped up in a selfish, hypocritical, condensed world.“The presence of evil is felt as the misfit openly acknowledges hisevil self and not being a good man” (Desmond 145). Just before theshooting, that world instantly shatters. “She sees the man’s facetwisted close to her as if he wanted to cry as she murmured why, yethe is like one of her babies” (O’ Connor 442). At this particularmoment, redemption for the grandmother is evident as her headliterally clears. Though disillusioned she is aware of the situationas her shallow thoughts disappear. She sees the misfit clearly andreaches her death reaching out her hand to touch the misfit on hisshoulder. The use of violence for example in agood man is hard to findemphasizes probable salvation for the grandmother. As if a snake bithim, the misfit sprang up and shot her thrice on the chest. “Hethen put the gun down, took off his glasses and cleaned them” (O’Connor 442). At this point, the misfit appears to be an interestingcharacter. In other scenes of the book, the misfit seems to useviolence as a means of letting out his emotions. He can afford toexplain why he commits serious crimes like murder in an effort toprove his innocence. Flannery seems to evoke readers respect for thecriminal at some point where he justifies his wrongs.
Goingthrough other stories by Flannery cannot disappoint readers,especially lovers of fiction. His high degree of mastery in use ofcharacters to bring out themes of violence and evil is commendable.In revelation,depiction of evil and violence appears at first glance from a randomattack in a doctor’s waiting room. In this story, the selfrighteous and self-loving Ruby becomes the victim of Mary Grace anugly blue acne face girl. “Mary Grace throws Ruby a book andattempts to strangle her in the doctor’s waiting room and afterbeing sedated she gives her a verbal death blow” (Jensen 121). MaryGrace calls Ruby an “old wart dog who should go back to hell whereshe came from” (O’Connor). This violence leads offended andconfused Ruby to go home. Later during the day Ruby’s anger shiftsfrom the girl who offended her to God and she cannot understand whyGod sent her as a good and respectable girl such a devastating andcondescending message. The anger makes her yell at God then shesuddenly has a vision that dismantles the image she has of herself,the world and other people. Ruby suffers a form of purgationpsychologically and physically. God gives her grace over the evilcommitted on her at the end of the story. She lets the physical andverbal violence act as catalyst functions for her change andspiritual awakening. According to Jensen (121),” violence has aspiritual and divine purpose”. It is not only a destructive forcebut also a productive force.
Goodcountry people likeother Flannery stories achieve redemption through violent actsperpetuated by evil embodied in Manley Pointer. Hulga’s wooden legseems to make her grotesque. Grotesque in this case means orsymbolizes a lack of faith from the soul. Through Manley stealing hisleg, he contributes to God’s work as committing this act providesHulga with the opportunity to accept grace and grow spiritually fromManley who leaves her at a humiliating position. The presence of evilin the world offers possibilities as in this scene depicting thedisappearance of Manley down the hole in the loft. The successfulstruggle over green speckled lake is also another sign of evil as heleaves Hulga sitting on the straw under the hot dusty sun. Accordingto O’Connor and Zaafirah, Hulga is emotionally crippled as much asshe is physically having lost her leg in a hunting accident when shewas only ten. She suffers inner grief and views the world as an evilplace especially when she does not get along with her mother who doesnot accept her. She goes to the extremes of changing her name as away of reinventing herself.
Storyafter story, “Flannery brings her characters to a point where theyno longer are in their accustomed manner” asserts Pence (1). Thedisplay of evil and violence in each story is amazing. Flannery isnot any ordinary writer but a talented fiction writer who enthrallsreaders and keeps glued, wanting to read more. Apart from displayingevil and violence so well she manages to bring out other aspects thatequally contribute to evil or violence effectively. After goingthrough those experiences, Flannery explains character transformationand does not let the reader wonder about the essence of violence orevil. She brings the proud to humbleness, enlightens the ignorant andshows those who believe in their wisdom that their wisdom isfoolishness before God. Characters in this stories gain new awarenessresulting from the epiphanal experiences.
Desmond,John. “Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit and the Mystery of Evil,”criticalinsights, 2001 144-145 Retrieved fromhttp://salempress.com/Store/pdfs/oconnor_critical_insights.pdf
Jensen,Karen, "Depiction of Violence in Flannery O`Connor`s,"Revelation,University of New Orleans, 2012. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.uno.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=awards
O`Connor,Flannery, and Zaafirah, Elbey. FlanneryO`connor Complete Stories.S.l.: Zaafirah El Bey, 2009. Print.Retrieved from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=UnmqTY2ZZr8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=flannery +o%27connor+short+stories&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BepqU67NMMzEPbGngZAO&redir_es c=y#v=onepage&q=flannery%20o`connor%20short%20stories&f=false
O’Connor,Flannery. Themoral voice of South a good country people.Retrieved from http://www.eluprogram.com/flannery_o_connor.pdf
Pence,Katie.“The Paradox of the Grotesque and Grace in FlanneryO’Connor’s,“AGood Man is Hard to Find”:A Casebook Study. 1999,Retrievedfrom http://wwwp.cord.edu/faculty/steinwan/nv13_pence.htm