With only a couple of weeks left in the semester, we’re almost finished with our readings for American Lit. For my post this week I’ve decided to write about some short stories by Flannery O’Connor which we looked at last week.
These short stories are quite different from the other short stories we’ve looked at so far this semester, such as Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’.
Although O’Connor is a Southern writer, her stories do not consist of the typical narrative of other Southern literature as she writes about the ordinary everyday lives of people who live in places like Georgia and Tennessee, instead of the aristocratic or wealthy characters which are more often seen in Southern fiction.
While studying O’Connor’s work, we read three of her short stories: ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’, ‘Good Country People’, and ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’ Of these stories, the one which I most enjoyed reading is ‘Everything That Rises.’
The story narrates the journey of a mother and her son, Julian, on the bus from their home into town so that she can attend a weight loss class. During this journey, the two characters interact with various passengers, with the mother commenting frequently on the presence of coloured people travelling on the bus.
Everything That Rises Must Converge cover
This story approaches the idea of racial tensions in the South during the Sixties in a very interesting way. While the mother finds it difficult to accept the recent implementation of integration, Julian attempts to be more accepting of these changes and appears throughout the story to be ashamed of his mother’s behaviour towards other people on the bus.
The mother seems to hold the opinion that white people are above coloured people in society, and that while coloured people can advance in areas of society such as education and employment, they should remain separate from white people.
One of the central aspects of the story which illustrates the racial tension present in the South is the significance of the mother’s hat. While travelling on the bus, Julian notices that the coloured woman who boards with her son is wearing the same hat as his mother. This detail of the story highlights how even though the mother feels that she is above coloured people in society, they are in fact more equal than she wants to believe.
I really enjoyed these short stories as it was fascinating to read about ideas we have already discussed in earlier lectures, such as race and religion, through highly compelling short stories with unusual characters and narratives.
Next week we’ll be looking at more short stories, this time by Raymond Carver. I’m hoping that these stories will be as interesting to read as the previous ones, and I’ll be back with another post next week to let you know what I thought of them!