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Tyrea M.

Carroll 10/16/2013 AP Lit: Flannery OConnor Essay

Not A True Hero?

What is a hero? The official definition of a hero is a, remarkably brave person who has shown an admirable quality, a man distinguished for his noble and selfless acts. Though this is the typical definition for a hero, Flannery OConnor has an entirely different perspective. She uses a unique choice of anti-heroes to get her point across to her readers. In her stories the (anti)heroes are disgraceful, self-centered and totally oblivious; this generally leads to their tragic demise, deception, or loss of faith. As horrible and grotesque as they are, OConnors (anti)heroes are meant to be prophets; messengers of a long forgotten responsibility. The Catholic Novelist quotes her characters as being, They seem to carry an invisible burden; their fanaticism is a reproach, not merely an eccentricityA matter of seeing near things with their extensions of meaning and thus of seeing far things, close up. (The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South. 1963 Essay) The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque. (en.utexas.edu/amlit.html) But through their own pettiness and pride which brings destruction upon themselves and others in the end, by means of grace they are given a view of spiritual reality far greater than their own sinful existence. OConnor strives to, in her storytelling, hold a mirror up to the world so that we can reflect on our own sinful actions. Flannery has been seen as a hypocrite to her own teachings. I write the way I do because (not though) I am a Catholic, she wrote in a letter to an anonymous admirer in 1955. While the literary critics of her day referred to her work as brutal and sarcastic, OConnor said, The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism. We can see Christian Realism as a philosophical perspective developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s that argues that the Kingdom of God cannot be realized on Earth because of the innately corrupt tendencies of society. (wiki/Christian_Realism) This is supported by Flannerys use of using disastrous moments, acts of violence, and the incongruous means of grace to transcend her characters by giving them a new understanding of themselves or the world in a different light.

OConnors stories point to solid, honest truths about humanitys struggles. To give her (anti)heroes a realistic quality, in her eyes, OConnor puts them in a world that reflects how she sees humanity as a whole. Rather than portraying a world of beauty in search of perfection, OConnors stories display the inner truth of the world we actually live in. A fallen world in which our deepest motivations are manned by self-centeredness and self-delusion, in which there really is little hope if we rely on ourselves for comfort. (Good and Evil, J-Tron) OConnor begins with an abstract thought that becomes more concrete as she continues to expound. This way she destroys certain significance of symbols, and qualities of her (anti)heroes. She makes them specific and distinct by making the spiritual, physical or the abstract, literal. Even in their violence, OConnors heroes are limited from their inmost rage. Flannery makes this aspect literal by giving their fury a detached, vague quality; keeping them detached from our grasp and understanding. OConnors heroes represent the Evil in her stories that prey on the gullible and the innocent. Though they go against Christianity, they have hero like qualities in the sense that they expose so-called Christian characters as fake. OConnors (anti)heroes are, in general, so alienated from their emotional life that they feel as though their emotions belong to someone else, right before they are moved by grace to accept their actions. These characters believe in something whether it is religious or atheistic, and are either swayed by Evil or are displayed as not knowing the origin of what they believe in. I believe OConnor truly sees her characters as religious heroes; even though some come across as disgraceful, they know what they believe in and display this belief to others. In her stories A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Good Country People there is a clear contrast between Evil and Innocence. As OConnor reveals and further dwells upon her characters, she projects a negative sense of righteousness in them instead of what one would expect from religious characters. (wiki/example_viewpoint/4126) In A Good Man Is Hard To Find the grandmother conveys to the reader that she knows what she believes in, but when she meets the Misfit, she is thrown off by his questions and statements. This leaves her questioning her faith and original thoughts. Meanwhile, the Misfit is seen as a demented man, believing that, Its no real pleasure in life (OConnor, 133) While he believed in Jesus, he also said, Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case

with me except He hadnt committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had papers on me (131) Most people would see the grandmother as being the true victim and the Misfit as the horrible Evil, in a sense. But looking at how OConnor uses her (anti)heroes to convey her true meaning we can see the Misfit as being a senseless evil and the grandmother as an artful innocence. In the end the Misfit saves the grandmother by showing her the error of her ways, supplying her with a brief moment of clarity, by means of grace. In Good Country People Hulga has no respect for the common person and changes her name from Joy to truly express how she feels about her deformity. But by looking deeper we can see that Hulgas wooden leg is not her true deformity but it is instead her willingness to believe in nothing without really knowing what nothing is. At the beginning of the story we can see her clearly express her atheistic attitude but when confronted you see a change in her beliefs; almost as if she wants to believe in Christianity. This misconception on her part inevitably leads to her downfall, the Bible Salesman telling her, you aint so smart. Ive been believing in nothing since I was born! (Good Country People, 291) This further shows how Hulga is destroyed by the evil personification from her beliefs about the world. Throughout her stories, Flannery shows us how the common person might not even be aware of their own hidden truths. Using the Southern Gothic genre, OConnor depicts some of the worse images of her time, depicting daily life in a graphically chilling way. Most, if not all, of her stories are as far from the standard happy endings as one can fathom. While you cannot help but develop, early in your reading a foreboding of disaster, the precise nature of that disaster is anything but predictable. The end of her characters usually proceed based on how they respond to her (anti)heroes, who then condemn them for their lack of knowledge or lack of faith behind their aforementioned religions, such as the grandmother from A Good Man Is Hard To Find.

OConnors (anti)heroes are so emotionally dead that they can perform the most horrendous acts without any conscious awareness of feelings of joy or despair. It is not surprising that the Misfit corrects his earlier comment that there is no pleasure but meanness, with its no real pleasure in life. (Anti)heroes unexpectedly from the eyes of unbelief, achieve a vision of themselves which is seen as a major accomplishment. says Clara Clairborne Park from the Ninth International Conference. Though this is true we can see that they rarely want to feel compassion because they fear emotional death. This is evident with the Misfit and his reaction to the grandmother trying to comfort him in a way he didnt openly welcome. OConnors (anti)heroes can never connect with themselves or with others, though they come pretty close during the momentary acts of violence. There are no perfect characters in OConnors work, no pure situations, and certainly no one distinguished for his noble and selfless acts, and yet her stories are not without hope. This is true even with her heroes; she always leaves a possibility of redemption. This redemption comes not from the person themselves but from outside pressure on their particular situation. God is the one who, by means of grace, provides Flannerys characters with hope and atonement for their sins. You have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. says Jill P. Baumgaertner. When there are no idealistic heroes to uphold good against evil, then there is nothing for us to aspire to; no hope for our own somewhat lesser quests to end in anything but confused longing. We need stories with strong characters in a broad perspective of genres. We need stories that clearly depict the good vs. evil scenarios with good at the forefront to be rooted for. At the same time, we need stories that paint for us the world as it is, stories that show us that our lives are saturated with evil and that the only way to overcome that evil is to accept love as a gift offered by God to mend our broken hearts. (Good and Evil, J-Tron) OConnor clearly shows that, beyond her heroes, is a spiritual reality far beyond their own sinful existence.

Works Cited
Jill P. Baumgaertner , The Meaning Is in You http://www.religiononline.org/showarticle.asp?title=1074 (Taken from The Meaning Is You, 10/12/2013) Folks, Jeffrey J. The Mechanical in Everything That Rises Must Converge. Southern Literary Journal18 (1986): 14-24. Mayer, Charles W. The Comic Spirit in A Stroke of Good Fortune. Studies in Short Fiction 16 (1979):70-4. McDonald, Russ. Comedy and Flannery OConnor. Southern Atlantic Quarterly 8 (1982): 188-201. _______. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Flannery OConnor: The Complete Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971. 117-33. Park, Clara Clairborne. Crippled Laugher: Toward Understanding Flannery OConnor. The American Scholar 51 (1982): 249-57. Rath, Sura Prasad. Comic Polarities in Flannery OConnors Wise Blood. Studies in Short Fiction 21 (1984) 251-58. Ihab Hassan.Radical Innocence, Patrick Galloway: The Dark Side of the Cross: Flannery OConnors Short Fiction, http://www.cyberpat.com/essays/flan.html 10/14/2013. Stephen Sparrow: The Ultimate Heresy. The Heartless God in Parkers Back , http://mediaspecialist.org/ssultimate.html 10/10/2013. Flannery OConnor: Mystery and Manners. Occasional Prose, selected and edited by Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1969. 179-180. Richard Giannone: Flannery OConnor and the Mystery of Love, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989. 221. John MacQuarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1977), 145. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flannery_O'Connor Jean-Paul Sartre: Being and Nothingness. An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. Transl., Intro.: Hazel Barnes, New york: Philosophical Library, 1956. 351-352. Casey N. Cep, "The Artist As Invalid," The Oxonian Review, 27 April 2009, http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/the-artist-as-invalid/, Accessed 10/12/2013.

Joy Williams, "Stranger Than Paradise," New York Times, 26 February 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/books/review/Williams-t.html?_r=1, Accessed 10/11/2013. Allen Barra, "A Southern Gothic Legend Is Hard to Find," Salon, 3 March 2009, http://www.salon.com/books/review/2009/03/03/flannery_oconnor/, Accessed 10/14/2013. William Goyen, "Unending Vengeance," New York Times, 18 May 1952, http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FB0E13FC3A5E107A93CAA8178ED85F468585F9, Accessed 10/14/2013. Allen Barra, "A Southern Gothic Legend Is Hard to Find," Salon, 3 March 2009, http://www.salon.com/books/review/2009/03/03/flannery_oconnor/, Accessed 10/12/2013. Lawrence Downes, "In Search of Flannery O'Connor," New York Times, 4 February 2007, http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/travel/04Flannery.html, Accessed 10/14/2013. "Flannery O'Connor," New Georgia Encyclopedia, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-498, Accessed 10/14/2013.