Study Guide

Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226282-Oconnor_F.jpgFlannery O’Connor. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925, the only child of Edward Flannery and Regina Cline O’Connor. Both her parents were Roman Catholics from active Catholic families, a religious heritage that had a deep effect on her thinking and writing. As a child, she attended parochial school and early developed an interest in domestic birds and poultry. In her later writings she recalled that, when she was five, a newsreel company came to film her pet bantam chicken, which could walk both forward and backward. Years later, in a high school home economics class, she responded to an assignment to make a child’s garment by creating a white piqué coat for a pet chicken. Also during her early years, O’Connor began to develop a talent for drawing and cartooning, an interest which remained with her through her life.

In 1938, her father was diagnosed as having disseminated lupus, a progressive disease in which the body forms antibodies to its own tissues. With that, the family moved from Savannah to Milledgeville, Georgia, where Regina O’Connor’s father had been mayor. Edward O’Connor died in February of 1941, and Flannery remained in Milledgeville for most of the rest of her life, with time away only during her brief period of healthy adulthood between 1945 and 1950.

In 1942, O’Connor entered Georgia State College for Women (now Women’s College of Georgia) in Milledgeville. She graduated with an A.B. degree in English and social sciences in 1945. During her college years, her interests were divided between fiction writing and cartooning. She did both, along with editing, for college publications. After her graduation, she decided to attend the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she had been awarded a fellowship on the basis of some of her stories, which one of her teachers had submitted to the workshop. It was about this time that she began to drop “Mary” and to use “Flannery” alone as a writing name.

The Writers’ Workshop, founded by Paul Engle, was the most prestigious program of its kind when O’Connor was a student there, and she learned much from the experience. One biographer, Harold Fickett, records her willingness to accept criticism from the workshop and her willingness to rewrite work in accord with her teachers’ suggestions. This sort of docility probably did not come easily to O’Connor, who was a person of strong convictions and a willingness to stand up for them. During her time at Iowa, she began to publish stories; her first publication was “The Geranium” in Accent in 1946. That story was one of the six of her thesis collection for the M.F.A. degree, which she received in 1947. She stayed on at Iowa for an additional year, teaching and writing the beginnings of her first novel,...

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Flannery O’Connor Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Flannery O’Connor’s relatively short life was, superficially, rather uneventful. O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, to Regina Cline and Edward Francis O’Connor, Jr. She was their only child. O’Connor’s father worked in real estate and construction, and the family lived in Savannah until 1938, when the family moved to Atlanta. In that year, Edward O’Connor became a zone real estate appraiser for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Shortly thereafter, O’Connor and her mother moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, and her father became so ill that he had to resign from his job in Atlanta and move to Milledgeville. On February 1, 1941, Edward O’Connor died.

In her youth, O’Connor was diagnosed with the same disease that had killed her father when she was almost sixteen. Her short life would end tragically from complications related to disseminated lupus, a disease that attacks the body’s vital organs. From the fall of 1938 until her death, O’Connor spent most of her life in Milledgeville, except for brief hiatuses. After graduating from the experimental Peabody High School in 1942, O’Connor entered Georgia State College for Women (subsequently renamed Georgia College) in Milledgeville, where she majored in sociology and English and was graduated with an A.B. degree in June, 1945. While in college, she was gifted both in drawing comic cartoons and in writing. In September, 1945, O’Connor enrolled at the State University of Iowa with a journalism scholarship, and in 1946, her first story, “The Geranium” (later revised several times until it became “Judgement Day,” her last story), was published in Accent. In 1947, she received the master of fine arts degree and enrolled for postgraduate work in the prestigious Writers’ Workshop. She was honored in 1948 by receiving a place at Yaddo, an artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Planning never to return to the South, O’Connor lived briefly in New York City in 1949 but later moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, to live with Robert and Sally...

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Flannery O’Connor Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925 and moved with her mother to Milledgeville, Georgia, in 1938. She earned her bachelor of arts degree from Women’s College of Georgia in 1945 and received a master of fine arts degree from the State University of Iowa in 1947. She published her first short story, “The Geranium” (Accent, 1946), during her years in Iowa. In 1947, she won the Rinehart-Iowa Fiction Award for a first novel with a portion of Wise Blood.

On the strength of this award and her promise as a writer, O’Connor was offered a fellowship by the Yaddo Foundation. She accepted and spent several months in Saratoga Springs, New York, but eventually returned to Milledgeville. A few months later, O’Connor moved in with the Fitzgerald family in Connecticut to complete Wise Blood. A serious illness, lupus erythematosus, redirected her life back to Milledgeville in 1951; there she would do the rest of her writing, and there she would die in 1964. From Milledgeville, she carried on a lively correspondence with friends, readers, critics, and her editors at Farrar and Giroux. When health permitted, she made trips to colleges and universities, many of them Roman Catholic schools, to discuss her work and literary art.

O’Connor won a Kenyon Review fellowship in fiction in 1953, a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant in 1957, and an O. Henry First Prize in Short Fiction in 1957. She also was granted honorary degrees from St. Mary’s College (1962) and Smith College (1963). She spent the last months of her life completing the stories eventually published in her posthumous collection Everything That Rises Must Converge. The Complete Stories won the National Book Award for fiction in 1971.

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201261-Oconnor.jpgFlannery O’Connor Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Mary Flannery O’Connor’s literary art combined a disarming Catholic orthodoxy with a Hawthorne-like knowledge of the effect of sin on human relationships, which she set in the Protestant South. It proved to be an irresistible mix even for secular critics, who found her parodies and celebrations of Bible Belt religion compelling and strangely disturbing. Her fiction succeeded not in making Christianity more palatable but in making its claims unavoidable.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925, O’Connor was by temperament and faith a devout Roman Catholic, the only child of Edward O’Connor and Regina Cline O’Connor. After her father fell gravely ill in 1938, she moved with her mother to the old Cline farmhouse, Andalusia, in Milledgeville, Georgia, her mother’s birthplace. O’Connor’s father died three years later. She attended Peabody High School with no perceptible sign of the deadly lupus, a serious and painful blood disorder, which took her father’s life and would eventually end hers.

By the time O’Connor took her bachelor’s degree from Women’s College of Georgia in 1945, she knew what she wanted to do: go north to learn the craft of fiction. She was accepted at the prestigious creative writing program at the University of Iowa, earning her master of fine arts degree in 1947. O’Connor published several stories in prominent literary periodicals during her stay in Iowa, including “The Geranium” in Accent and “The Train” in The Sewanee Review. The latter story, a portion of the novel that would later be published as Wise Blood, won for her the Rinehart-Iowa fiction award in 1947.

On the strength of this award and her promise as a writer, O’Connor was offered a fellowship by the Yaddo Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting the arts. Upon accepting the fellowship, she spent several fruitful months at the Yaddo study center in Saratoga Springs, New York, in early 1949. The young and naïve O’Connor returned to Milledgeville soon thereafter, however, because of the turmoil erupting over procommunist accusations against another Yaddo guest writer. Her brief stay at Yaddo had, nevertheless, yielded important friendships with some prominent writers and editors—including the poet Robert Lowell, who introduced her to Robert Giroux, editor in chief at Harcourt Brace in New York—contacts that would be invaluable to her in her career.

After spending a few months back at her home, where she continued to work on Wise Blood, she accepted the invitation to move in with the Robert and Sally Fitzgerald family in Ridgefield, Connecticut. These friends of Giroux became her unofficial literary patrons and her surrogate...

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Flannery O’Connor Biography (eNotes Publishing)

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925, Mary Flannery O’Connor attended Peabody High School and then Georgia State College, majoring in English and sociology. She received a master’s degree in literature from the University of Iowa and then spent seven months at the artist retreat at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs working on her first novel, Wise Blood, which she published in 1952.

In 1950, O’Connor suffered her first attack of lupus, a blood disease that had taken the life of her father when she was in her teens. She worked at her writing every day because she knew her life would be short. O’Connor died of lupus at the age of 39 (in 1964).

O’Connor’s body of work is small, consisting of thirty-one...

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Flannery O’Connor Biography (eNotes Publishing)

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925, to Catholic parents. She attended Catholic grammar and high school and later Georgia College. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa in 1947. In 1951, she was diagnosed with lupus, the disease that had killed her father. In spite of great pain and discomfort, O’Connor wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, winning awards and acclaim, before eventually dying of lupus at the age of thirty-nine. Her major collections of short stories include The Life You Save May Be Your Own, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and Everything Rises Must Converge.

O’Connor remained a devout Catholic throughout her life, which,...

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Flannery O’Connor Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia to Edward F. O’Connor, a real estate professional, and Regina L....

(The entire section is 510 words.)

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Novels for Students)

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, the only child of a middle-class Catholic family. Her father was a realtor...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Novels for Students)

Flannery O Published by Gale Cengage

Flannery O'Connor wrote from her experiences as a Roman Catholic raised in the Protestant South. Her religion and regional upbringing greatly contributed to her themes and writing style. Yet critics agree that her father's death from lupus—as well as her own later suffering from the same disease—were also significant influences on her writing.

Born Mary Flannery O'Connor to Edward Francis and Regina Cline O'Connor on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, O'Connor lived in that southern city until the Great Depression forced the family to seek job opportunities elsewhere. O'Connor and her parents moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, where her grandparents lived and where she attended high school and college. While the family was living in Milledgeville, O'Connor's father died of systemic lupus erythematosus ("lupus" or "SLE"), a disease that results when the body's immune system goes out of control. O'Connor was thirteen at the time.

During her high school and college years, O'Connor demonstrated a talent for cartooning and writing. The characters she drew and the writing she did provided an often sarcastic view of the difficulties of growing up. O'Connor graduated from Peabody High School in 1942 and continued to write. She completed an A.B. degree in 1945 at the Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College at Milledgeville) and, in 1947, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the prestigious University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

O'Connor worked on her first novel, Wise Blood, during late 1948 and early 1949 while living in Connecticut and New York. She submitted it to Harcourt Brace for publication during the winter of 1950-51. At that same time, she began to show early symptoms of the disease that killed her father. Suffering from fatigue and aching joints, the twenty-five-year-old O'Connor moved back to the southern climate in Milledgeville, where she was living when she received her diagnosis of lupus.

While lupus attacked her body with greater force over the years, O'Connor continued to write, and always with spiritual undertones. She endured pain and disfigurement from the disease and its treatments without allowing them to shake her faith. She constantly believed that the human body was not the real body; the only true body was the body of the resurrected. Critics agree that her writing reflects this unwavering trust. For example, O'Connor's characters often exhibited grotesque appearances, actions, or personality traits—the imperfections resulting from a society that has lost its sense of spiritual purpose.

During the fourteen years after her diagnosis, O'Connor authored another novel and several short stories. She was the recipient of a number of awards, including O. Henry Memorial Awards in 1957, 1963, and 1964; a Ford Foundation grant in 1959; a National Catholic Book award in 1966; and the National Book Award in 1972, which she won for her book The Complete Short Stories. O'Connor died of lupus-related renal failure on August 3, 1964, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Considered one of the most powerful voices of American literary fiction, Flannery O'Connor was born Mary Flannery O'Connor in Savannah,...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Although she produced relatively few works in her short lifetime of 39 years, Mary Flannery O'Connor is considered one of the most important...

(The entire section is 559 words.)

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Flannery O’Connor’s parents had an effect on their only daughter in ways that were both fruitful and tragic. O’Connor was born in 1925...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

Flannery O’Connor Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Born on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, Mary Flannery O’Connor was the only child of Edwin Francis and Regina Cline O’Connor. She...

(The entire section is 397 words.)