Flannery O’Connor: Contribution as American Novelist

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      Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) American novelist and short story writer, was born in Savannah, Georgia and educated at Georgia State College for Women. She suffered by mental illness, lupus, a deadly blood disease for much of her adult life and was frequently hospitalized and in great pain until her death at the age of 39. Despite the brevity of her career, she made a strong impression on the American literary scene, and exerted considerable influence, especially on the development of the American short story. Her own southern origins and devout Roman Catholic faith are evident throughout her fiction in which she often uses poor, disabled, or socially marginal characters involved in absurd and violent situations to convey the spiritual poverty and crippled intellect of the modern world. Her vision of violent spiritual struggle in the rural South is marked by a grotesque humor and unnerving irony.

      Her first novel Wise Blood (1952) tells the story of Hazel Motes, the lonely prophet of a church without a Christ, where the blind stay blind, the lame stay lame, and them that’s dead stays that way’. Another novel The Violent Bear It Away, was published in 1960. Her short stories are collected in A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955); and The Artificial Nigger and Other Stories (1959) in Britain and the posthumously published Everything That Rises Must Converge (1955). She refused sentimentality, as evident in her extremely humorous yet bleak and uncompromising stories. Unlike Porter, Welty and Hurston, O’Connor most often held her characters at arm’s length, revealing their inadequacy and silliness. The uneducated southern characters that people her novels often create violence through superstition or religion, as we see in her novel Wise Blood (1952), about a religious fanatic who establishes his own church. Sometimes violence arises out of prejudice, as in “The Displaced Person,” about and immigrant killed by ignorant country people who are threatened by his hard work and strange ways. Often, cruel events simply happen to the character' as in “Good Country People,” the story of a girl seduced by a man who steals her artificial leg. The black humor of O’Connor links her with Nathaniel West and Joseph Heller. The Habit of Being (1979) is a volume of letters. Her Complete Stories came out in 1971.

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