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Redemption through Catastrophe in Flannery O’Connor’s Short Stories

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Flannery O’Connor is notorious for her amazing ability to make her readers come through the so-called spiritual catharsis along with the characters portrayed in her short stories. Such literary pieces as “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “Good Country People”, and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” are not exceptions. The motifs of unavoidable redemption through catastrophe resonate throughout the three short stories.

Thus, it is possible to argue that the Grandmother is an extremely controversial figure in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. This self-centered woman, who is always discontent with her family, exemplifies pseudo-piousness and hypocrisy in the story. Her constant complaints, inability to keep her mouth shut, and egocentrism eventually lead to a tragic outcome for the whole household. Still, the author hints that the Grandmother starts acting as a real Christian, after losing her close people. The wretched woman reaches to touch his killer, saying “You’re one of my own children” (506). Thus, by this gesture she bestows forgiveness on her murderer.   

In “Good Country People”, a young talented, but physically disabled woman, Hulga, confronts the outrageous bigotry and pharisaism a disguised Bible salesman, who makes her rethink her life. It is obvious that Hulga despises the hypocrite, but this diabolic man says, “I’m as good as you any day in the week” (518), hinting that this intelligent girl is no better than him. This godless salesman turns out to be an unwilling instrument of grace that opens a way to spiritual purification for the prideful girl. Thus, Hulga undergoes a sort of mortification and is provided with the opportunity to reassess her values, confirmations, and relationship with her family.   

Julian, the main protagonist of O’Connor’s third story “Everything That Rises Must Converge” also has to go through the loss of the closest person to realize the futility of his ambitions and narcissism. The young guy’s reproaches and accusations are heard throughout the story, and his meek mother endures them stoically. This woman, whose “teeth had gone unfilled so that his [Julian’s] could be straightened” (521), becomes an object of Julian’s unreasonable attacks and teachings. But still, she adores her arrogant child blindly. Unfortunately, Julian realizes this simple truth too late. His mother dies, and he is left alone with his grief. Thus, this hero also finds redemption only after his personal catastrophe. 

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