Thursday, February 17, 2011


I'm re-reading some of the works of the great Southern Gothic author Flannery O'Connor. This will be only the second time I've gone through most of them, but still I'm finding the Christian themes easier to pick up. I've tried to track down some literary criticism of her works, and I've found that people basically obsess with "A Good Man is Hard to Find." More on that later.

First, I personally find fiction with Christian themes much more thought-provoking and meaningful than simple apologetics. This is why I love O'Connor and Dostoevsky so much. In fact, my favorite C.S. Lewis work is "Screwtape Letters," which is undeniably apologetics but brilliantly written in the voice of a fictional character. Perhaps straight apologetic writing just seems too much like a lecture to me, while fiction allows the reader to bring his own levels of understanding into the writer's thoughts. This is what I try to do.

Although my stories to date have been more straight-forward Christian in nature than O'Connor's, I still give that freedom of interpretation, particularly in "The Job." For instance, you can tell in Grace Krispy's review that she nearly gets it, but Mary Ann Langan's "review" reveals she doesn't get it at all. As I turn more toward Southern Gothic in my writing, I'll try to keep this connection to Christianity without letting it become a sledge hammer.

So, anyway "A Good Man is Hard to Find" apparently is accepted as O'Connor's seminal story in the eyes of most, although I'm not so sure ("Revelation" and "The Displaced Person" deserve some consideration). It certainly is the most direct story in putting forward O'Connor's idea that violence is "the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially." It's shock value is probably why the secular world has latched onto it. But O'Connor's overall Christian outlook within her work -- that of portraying "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil" -- is a little harder to find, the grace part anyway. The grandmother tries to talk the Misfit into being a good man, even in a way comparing his blood to Jesus', but he makes her a good woman by sticking a gun in her face.

That's the extent of my literary criticism. You're free to write your own without my interference. I highly recommend O'Connor's work. I will add this last thing -- the Misfit's complaint that "I wasn't there so I can't say (Jesus) didn't (raise the dead). I wisht I had of been there. It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would of known," is very close to Ivan Karamazov's complaint in "The Grand Inquisitor" -- if only Jesus would prove Himself to me, then I could believe.

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