A Violent Illumination of Salvation. Speaks of Flannery O'Connor

Essay by charlene1A+, January 1996

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Flannery O'Connor uses violence to return characters to reality and prepare them to accept their moment of grace. The New Encyclopedia Britannica defines grace as the 'spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine or the divine influence operating in man for his regeneration and sanctification' (401). At any cost, a soul must find salvation. O'Connor states, 'In my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace' (qtd.in Bain 407). Dorothy Walters, Associate Professor of English at Wichita State University, believes O'Connor's single theme is the battle between God and the devil 'dueling for the human soul in the ancient clash' (105).

The illumination of salvation through violent means is essential because 'both O'Connor and her God are ironists [unyielding] . . . her heros are willful characters who must be humbled in learning that the will of God must prevail' (Master-pieces 497).

O'Connor portrays two varieties of sinners who possess either excessive pride or aggressive evil traits. The price of redemption is high. O'Connor violently shocks her characters, illuminates their shortcomings, and prepares them for redemption as seen in: 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' 'Revelation,' 'The River,' and 'The Lame Shall Enter First.'

Walters reasons, 'The instruction of pride through lessons of humility is, in each story, the means by which the soul is prepared for its necessary illumination by the Holy Spirit' (73). The grandmother in 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' and Rudy Turpin in 'Revelation' is each convinced that she is a lady of elevated status. When threatened by superior beings, their self-imposed facades fall. Inherent human weaknesses are not tolerated and the faulty soul is damned or violently returned to reality (Walters 72). In...