American Lit Flannery O'Connor and the Experience Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

American Lit

Flannery O'Connor and the Experience of Grace

Perhaps more than any other modern American writer, Flannery O'Connor stood apart from the America modernist tradition. She has very little sense of alienation from past ideological solutions -- in fact, she embraces her Catholicism. Unlike most of her male contemporaries of her literary stature, she primarily expressed herself through the vehicle of short fiction, rather than novels. Unlike most Southern writers of her period, she was a Catholic rather than a Protestant. Unlike Americans of the 1950's such as the 'Beats' she stayed close to home and to her Southern roots and family, partly as a result of the autoimmune disease she was afflicted by for most of her short adult life. The solution O'Connor offered to the modern crisis of a loss of faith is that of a kind of religious grace or compassion that she bestowed upon some of the most unlikable of her characters.

For instance, the grandmother of O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," sees in the eyes of the lost murderer The Misfit, that he could be one of her own babies, in the final paragraphs of that tale. This insight comes to the grandmother only after a long prologue, where the woman's own adult children are revealed to be rather superficial individuals with poorly behaved, rude and materially spoiled children.

The Misfit, actually wrongly imprisoned originally, but gone to the bad because of the way the law treated him, engages in a moment of understanding with the old woman -- before he blows her away with his gun. But despite this harsh, humorous ending it is clear that the two characters have engaged in a kind of understanding, and received a kind of mutual grace of understanding absent from the life of the other characters, whom are now dead.

This grace is bestowed as well to the heroine of "Good Country People." In this story, O'Connor shows an unattractive woman whose pretensions are destroyed when her false leg is stolen. Even though a charlatan steals the woman's leg, his actions give this woman a kind of spiritual insight into the limits of her intellect, despite her education. Before, she held herself away from her society, now she has no choice but to be vulnerable.

Although O'Connor wrote mainly about Protestant Southerners, she admitted that Catholicism dominated her thought and the themes of her tales because in this received tradition, "Mystery and Manners" was what…

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