O'Connor, Flannery (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Everything That Rises Must Converge Flannery O'Connor
(Full name Mary Flannery O'Connor) American short story writer, novelist, and essayist.
The following entry presents criticism of O'Connor's short story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). For further information on O'Connor's life and career, see CLC, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 13, 15, 21, and 66.
The title of O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge is taken from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man. The stories in the collection revolve around characters who are not prepared to accept God's grace. O'Connor's genre is very specific; she is a southern Catholic writer whose work is infused with southern and religious imagery.
Plot and Major Characters
Many of the characters in Everything That Rises Must Converge are similar types. The protagonist of the title story, Julian, is an educated, seemingly liberal, would-be writer who has had to resort to selling typewriters to make a living. He lives with his mother, another O'Connor archetype, a pretentious southern woman who is living in reduced circumstances. She struggles to keep her dignity and to dominate her son, for whom she has sacrificed everything. "The Enduring Chill" features Asbury, another would-be writer forced to move in with his mother. Like Julian, Asbury feels he has risen above the Southern environment in which he was raised. Also reminiscent of Julian, he is a would-be liberal whose attempts to befriend the African-American workers on his mother's dairy farm is more of a rebellion against his mother than a true affection or concern for the workers. The pompous middle-class woman is another frequent character in these stories. Represented by Julian's mother in the title story, Mrs. Turpin in "Revelation," and Mrs. May in "Greenleaf," each woman discovers that her belief in her own virtue and goodness is not enough for true grace. Simply avoiding evil is not enough for redemption in O'Connor's world. Intellectuals are also portrayed with little sympathy by O'Connor. Sheppard in "The Lame Shall Enter First" believes that intelligence and a good home life is enough to save Rufus, a club-footed juvenile delinquent whom he takes in and tries to redeem. Sheppard's blind devotion to ideas and intelligence causes him to be duped by Rufus and to lose his own son, Norton.
The major theme of Everything That Rises Must Converge is derived from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man. In that work, the author asserts that all matter and spirit will eventually converge at what he refers to as the Omega point. The stories from this collection are about man's resistance to this convergence. O'Connor's characters use different methods to avoid convergence or union with mankind, including isolating themselves in intellectualism like Julian and Sheppard, or clinging to a romanticized version of the past like Julian's mother. It is only through the destruction of pride and false identities that O'Connor's characters have a chance at convergence or redemption, hence the violent climaxes of many of the stories: Julian loses his sense of superiority over and separation from his mother as he watches her die from a stroke; Sheppard realizes the error of his judgement when he finds his son hanging in the attic. Other themes in Everything That Rises Must Converge include Christians struggling to keep their faith and finding redemption in an increasingly secularized and technologically advancing world. A final theme in this collection focuses on capturing the changes of the South of the 1950s and 1960s. O'Connor traces her characters' relationship to the New South, delineating the continuing evolution of the region.
Most critics discuss the relationship of Everything That Rises Must Converge to the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The title's obvious allusion to Teilhard de Chardin's work is commonly accepted; however, reviewers disagree about O'Connor's intentions. Some argue that she accepts Teilhard de Chardin's ideas, and the stories are her attempt to portray true convergence. Others, including Robert Fitzgerald in the Introduction to the work, assert that O'Connor uses the title ironically. Reviewers often note the irony and humor in the stories. In addition, many critics praise her storywriting skill and her ability to convey colloquialism and rural southern dialogue. Critics often discuss the grotesque and violent images in the stories, but many point out that the images are not gratuitous. Due to the imagery and setting of the stories, reviewers note a resemblance to the work of William Faulkner, but several assert that O'Connor's work is more representative of the New South than Faulkner's.
Wise Blood (novel) 1952
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (short stories) 1955
The Violent Bear It Away (novel) 1960
Everything That Rises Must Converge (short stories) 1965
Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose [edited by Sally and Robert Fitzgerald] (nonfiction) 1969
The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor (short stories) 1971
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor (letters) 1979
The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews [compiled by Leo J. Zuber, edited by Carter W. Martin] (essays) 1983
Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works (fiction, criticism, letters) 1988
Flannery O'Connor: The Growing Craft—A Synoptic Variorum Edition of The Geranium, An Exile in the East, Getting Home, Judgement Day (short stories) 1993
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SOURCE: "A Cold, Hard Look at Humankind," in Saturday Review, Vol. XL VIII, No. 2, May 29, 1965, pp. 23-4.
[In the following review, Hicks discusses the lack of compassion in the stories in O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge.]
Flannery O'Connor died last summer in her fortieth year, having published two novels and a collection of short stories. She left enough short stories to make another collection, which has just been published: Everything That Rises Must Converge.
Already a kind of Flannery O'Connor legend is taking shape. Much has been written about her since her death, and Esprit, published by the University of Scranton, has devoted most of an issue to praise of her work by distinguished men and women of letters. Certain themes are emphasized: her devotion to Catholicism, the toughness of character that permitted her to survive and to triumph as a writer while living on an isolated Georgia farm, the courage with which she endured a crippling and incurable disease, her constant preoccupation with her craft.
Certain of Flannery O'Connor's virtues—particularly her courage and her craftsmanship—cannot be exaggerated, but she was not, as some of her admirers seem to suggest, a candidate for sainthood. She was a devout and proud Catholic: "I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer," she wrote in her essay in The...
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SOURCE: "Flannery O'Connor, Sin, and Grace: Everything That Rises Must Converge," in The Hollins Critic, Vol. II, No. 4, September, 1965, pp. 1-8, 10.
[In the following essay, Sullivan asserts that O'Connor is more successful in carrying out her themes in her short fiction than in her novels, because she is unable to sustain the images and relationships in the longer form.]
The stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge are the last fruits of Flannery O'Connor's particular genius; and though one or two of them display an uncertainty that must have been the result of her deteriorating health, they are for the most part successful extensions of her earlier fiction. God-ridden and violent—six of the nine end in something like mayhem—they work their own small counter reformation in a faithless world. Flannery O'Connor's limitations were numerous and her range was narrow: she repeated herself frequently and she ignored an impressively large spectrum of human experience. But what she did well, she did with exquisite competence: her ear for dialogue, her eye for human gestures were as good as anybody's ever were: and her vision was as clear and direct and as annoyingly precious as that of an Old Testament prophet or one of the more irascible Christian saints.
Her concern was solely with the vulgarities of this world and the perfections of the other—perfections that had...
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SOURCE: "Flannery O'Connor: Faith's Stepchild," in The Nation, Vol. 201, No. 7, September 13, 1965, pp. 142-44, 146.
[In the following review, Schott discusses O'Connor's Catholicism and asserts that "in Flannery O'Connor's stories evil is man's inevitable fate."]
After reading Flannery O'Connor's final stories I ended the night listening to the mathematical music of the baroque. Order had to be restored, the monsters exorcised from the imagination and pressed back into her fiction.
Losers all, her characters act out the Gothic rituals of defeat and destruction in the nightmare American South. And if Miss O'Connor's god was ever aware of them (a problem to return to eventually), he is now obliviously sawing logs in heaven, as Pär Lagerkvist suggested in The Eternal Smile. Let them kill and be killed or grind their teeth in anticipation.
There are nine stories here, all episodes of fatal error and ironic retribution—modern Old Testament scenes in eschatology as the earth binds winding sheets around her failures. First a fat white woman, beaten to the pavement for offering a Negro boy a penny at the end of a bus ride, dies of a stroke or heart attack. Next a farm spinster is gored to death by the bull she commanded her hired man to shoot. A progress-crazed old farmer in "A View of the Woods" pounds his 9-year-old granddaughter's skull against rocks until her...
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SOURCE: "Flannery O'Connor's Stories," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. V, No. 4, September 30, 1965, pp. 16-7.
[In the following review, Howe praises O'Connor's storywriting ability and her collection Everything That Rises Must Converge, but complains that, except for two stories, O'Connor's work is missing the unexpected revelation that he finds endearing in other great stories.]
On and off these last months I have been fussing in my mind with Miss O'Connor's stories, unable to reach that certainty of judgment which, we all know, is the established trade mark of the modern critic. The skill and ambition of these stories are not lost upon me, yet I hesitate fully to join in the kind of praise they have won from respected critics.
At first I feared my distance from Miss O'Connor's religious beliefs might be corrupting my judgment, but while one cannot, in the nature of things, offer guarantees, the trouble does not seem to reside in the famous "problem of belief." Miss O'Connor was a serious Catholic, and what she called "the Catholic sacramental view of life" is certainly a controlling force in her stories. But it is not the only nor always the dominant one, since she could bring into play resources of worldliness such as one might find in the work of a good many sophisticated modern writers. Miss O'Connor's religious convictions certainly operate throughout most of her...
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SOURCE: "Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge," in Critique, Vol. VIII, No. 1, Fall, 1965, pp. 85-91.
[In the following review, Kane discusses the distinctive qualities of three stories from O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge—"The Lame Shall Enter First," "A View of the Woods," and "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
Reviewing the last book of the talented Flannery O'Connor is an awesome task. It seems fitting to praise the quality of her life, the extraordinary spirit that animated Miss O'Connor through her long and painful illness. Such is Robert Fitzgerald's splendid introduction to Everything That Rises Must Converge. Fitzgerald movingly evokes the woman who wrote the stories and suggests a continuity in the totality of her work. I shall attempt neither. It requires a personal acquaintance like Fitzgerald's to convey all Miss O'Connor's gifts for living as well as for writing. But the stories here collected can be confronted, admired, and recommended.
The nine stories, all but one of which have previously appeared in various journals, have some common concerns. There are similarities in theme, method, and characterization among them, as there are resemblances to earlier works. But the similarities strike me less than the distinctive qualities of each story as an entity. A conflict may resemble that between generations in...
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SOURCE: "Introduction," in Everything That Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O'Connor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1956, pp. vii-xxxiv.
[In the following introduction, Fitzgerald provides an overview of O'Connor's career and the themes present in the stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge.]
She was a girl who started with a gift for cartooning and satire, and found in herself a far greater gift, unique in her time and place, a marvel. She kept going deeper (this is a phrase she used) until making up stories becam, for her, a way of testing and defining and conveying that superior knowledge that must be called religious. It must be called religious but with no false note in our voices, because her writing will make any false note that is applied to it very clear indeed. Bearing hard upon motives and manners, her stories as moralities cut in every direction and sometimes go to the bone of regional and social truth. But we are not likely to state what they show as well as they show it. We can stay on the safe side by affirming, what is true and usefully borne in mind, that making up stories was her craft, her pleasure and her vocation, that her work from first to last is imaginative writing, often comic writing, superbly achieved and always to be enjoyed as that. We had better let our awareness of the knowledge in her stories grow quietly without forcing it, for nothing could be worse than to treat...
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SOURCE: "'Convergence' in Flannery O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. VII, No. 4, Fall, 1970, pp. 549-55.
[In the following essay, Dinneen Maida discusses the idea of convergence in O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and asserts that O'Connor shows man his inadequacies.]
Flannery O'Connor's fiction continues to provoke interest and critical analysis. The title story of her posthumous collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, has been among those stories that have received attention lately. But no one has yet examined the implications of the title. Robert Fitzgerald tells us that Miss O'Connor got the idea for the title when she read Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man in 1961.
Typical of an O'Connor work, this story has meaning on several levels; especially, the allusion to Chardin's theory of "convergence" offers an enriching dimension to the story. Essentially, it describes an experience of a mother and son that changes the course of their lives. Measured against the background of Southern middle-class values, the mother-son relationship has social and also personal implications. But, on a larger scale, the story depicts the plight of all mankind. Furthermore, as one considers the allusion in the title, the universality of Miss O'Connor's message becomes even more evident—as...
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SOURCE: "On Flannery O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in Critique, Vol. XIII, No. 2, 1971, pp. 15-29.
[In the following essay, Montgomery refers to a superficial analysis of O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge," and proceeds to analyze the story on a deeper level.]
Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" first appeared in New World Writing Number 17, in 1961, from which it was selected for inclusion in both Best American Short Stories of 1962 and Prize Stories of 1963: the O. Henry Awards. It appeared posthumously, as the title story of the final collection of her fiction, in 1965. It has, in consequence, had special attention called to it over a period of years and has received critical, if sometimes puzzled, readings at a number of hands. Predictably, much (though not all) of that attention has centered upon the topical materials it uses, the "racial" problem which seems the focus of the conflict between the story's "Southern mother" and her liberal son. That sort of attention is one of the inevitable by-products of the turmoils that have engaged us since the story's initial publication, turmoils that fulfill Unamuno's prophecy that soon we would be dying in the streets of sentimentality. In the interest of getting beyond the topical materials of the story, to those qualities of it that will make it endure in our literature, I should...
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SOURCE: "The Lessons of History: Flannery O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, Vol. I, Autumn, 1972, pp. 39-45.
[In the following essay, Desmond discusses the influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's ideas about human history and redemption on O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
This vision of human history developed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—a synthesis of biological and psychological evolution and the Christian conception of historical redemption—is one which strongly appealed to Flannery O'Connor and influenced much of her later work. In The Phenomenon of Man Teilhard describes the process of evolution as one which follows a law of increased complexification and convergence toward greater consciousness as the inevitable outcome of the evolutionary process. For Teilhard, the drive toward synthesis is caused by the energy of union—love—and he warned strongly against isolation or refusal of reconciliation in any form, racial or individual. Teilhard sees the energy of union as an Omega point which is the source and object of love, and to the theist Omega is God. The central position of Christianity in this perspective, with its beliefs in a personal God and its own universality, is that the actuality of Omega is achieved through Christ's Incarnation, uniting Himself organically with human history, with all matter and all...
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SOURCE: "Everything That Rises Must Converge," in Flannery O'Connor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1974, pp. 99-130.
[In the following essay, Browning asserts that in O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge, "she recognized that the recovery of depth, or being, was possible only by stripping the masks from men whose fraudulent righteousness had rendered them too complacent even to be damned."]
In Flannery O'Connor's posthumous volume of stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, subject and setting are very much a part of the contemporary South. Economic growth is under way, and its partisans are feverishly engaged as midwives to "progress" ("A View of the Woods"); racial integration is a fact increasingly difficult to ignore, and white Southerners of all classes are forced to assume some attitude toward it ("Everything That Rises Must Converge"). The upheavals wrought by World War II and the Korean conflict have unsettled class lines, and the sons of tenant farmers are on their way to becoming "society" ("Greenleaf"); the dispersion of poor whites throughout the urban North is well advanced, constituting opportunity for many of the young but exile in an alien and hostile land for the elderly ("Judgement Day"). And, as in the novel, The Violent Bear It Away, the techniques of modern psychology are being liberally applied by social worker-types reared on...
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SOURCE: "Julian's Journey into Hell: Flannery O'Connor's Allegory of Pride," in Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Culture, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, Spring, 1975, pp. 171-9.
[In the following essay, McDermott discusses Julian and his loss of faith in O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
In Flannery O'Connor's abrasive allegory "Everything That Rises Must Converge," Julian Chestny runs vainly from his soul's imminent dissolution as the story reaches its inevitable climax. The fact that Julian "had lost his faith" is proven conclusively in the story's final scenes, where "his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow" is nothing less than his entrance into the world of hell, and where his pride, now dethroned, seeks to flee from the crippling abject image it finally has of itself.
The essential inevitability of the climax is an integral part of the studied structure of the work, which in its compactly interwoven, parable-like form makes one realize that nearly every incident is symbolic in action, and that there is in fact a chain reaction, imperative in essence, where one sees one action precipitate another, in an unremittingly lethal fashion, for the unfortunate characters who are involved in its enactment.
In opposition to the profoundly pessimistic conclusion concerning the final, pitiful condition of Julian's soul that I have reached are Leon V....
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SOURCE: "The World of Guilt and Sorrow: Flannery O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, Vol. IV, Autumn, 1975, pp. 42-51.
[In the following essay, Denham discusses O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" as a journey towards Julian's growth, and asserts that the bus scene serves to make Julian unsympathetic and provides the means for the story's climax.]
"In the act of writing," says Flannery O'Connor, "one sees that the way a thing is made controls and is inseparable from the whole meaning of it. The form of a story gives it meaning which any other form would change." She adds that unless the reader "is able, in some degree, to apprehend the form, he will never apprehend anything else about the work, except what is extrinsic to it as literature." These statements imply a neatly capsulated set of principles for one kind of critical inquiry, the kind which seeks to explain a fictional whole not only in terms of its parts but also in relation to the reader's apprehension of the story's shaping principle. Miss O'Connor's brief statement, in fact, closely parallels R. S. Crane's Neo-Aristotelian argument about causal inquiry as a method of criticism. Crane contends that in order to speak critically about any one part of literary work it is first necessary to determine its "essential cause." This cause, he argues, is the writer's primary intuition of...
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SOURCE: "Everything That Rises Must Converge," in Flannery O'Connor, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1976, pp. 43-71.
[In the following essay, Tuck McFarland analyzes the different instances of rising and convergence in the stories from O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge.]
The stories in O'Connor's second collection reflect her concern with questions implicitly raised by the rather gnomic title "Everything That Rises Must Converge." The phrase comes from the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist-philosopher. Teilhard hypothesized that evolution, far from stopping with the emergence of homo sapiens, continues to progress toward higher levels of consciousness, and that its ultimate goal is pure consciousness, which is Being itself, or God.
Teilhard's concept of the progress of evolution, actual and predicted, can best be visualized as a globe. At the base of the globe—the beginning of the evolutionary process—lines radiate outward and upward, representing the diversification of many forms of life which are moving upward toward greater levels of biological complexity. At the midpoint of the globe the diversification stops and one species—man—comes to dominate the earth. Moving from the midpoint of the globe upward, the lines begin to converge as they approach the topmost pole, the evolutionary destination that Teilhard called the...
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SOURCE: "The Penny and the Nickel in 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 23, No. 1, Winter, 1986, pp. 107-10.
[In the following essay, Ower discusses the symbolism of the coin Julian's mother gives to the young boy in "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
In O'Connor's story, the violent climactic "convergence" of black and white races is precipitated by Julian's mother offering a coin to a little Negro boy. Her customary gift to black children is a nickel, but she has been able to find only a cent in her pocketbook. That the fateful coin is a penny, and that it is newly minted, are both emphasized by O'Connor through being twice mentioned. The author thereby hints the significance with regard to "Everything that Rises …" of the Lincoln cent and Jefferson nickel (the two coins current in 1961 when O'Connor's story was written). The designs of these pieces suggest a nexus of meanings relating to the social, racial and religious themes of "Everything that Rises…."
The obverse of the Lincoln cent bears the portrait of its namesake, to the left of which is the motto "LIBERTY." The chief feature of the reverse is a representation of the Lincoln Memorial. These three details have an obvious relevance to O'Connor's sympathetic concern with the "rise" of Southern blacks from slavery towards true freedom and socio-economic equality. Thus, the features...
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SOURCE: "The Mechanical in Everything That Rises Must Converge," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, Spring, 1986, pp. 14-26.
[In the following essay, Folks discusses O'Connor's relationship to the Southern literary tradition and to the industrialization of the South as expressed in the stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge.]
To many critics, the views of Flannery O'Connor on science and technology have seemed self-evident. The modern faith in science was the extension of a Post-Reformation reliance on Nominalism, a philosophical position that O'Connor never ceased to question. More damaging than pure science, the popular belief in technology as a panacea had led the twentieth century away from religious faith and toward belief in a future paradise to be brought about by technology.
As Jane C. Keller insisted, O'Connor's empiricists had erected barriers between themselves and the recognition of the universe as the work of God. In the figure of Sheppard, Thomas Carlson saw "the supreme exponent of Pelegianism," a character who "tries to render the material thing spiritual through technology, a kind of latter-day alchemy."
Certainly O'Connor's writing has provided ample evidence that the concept of mechanization is to be viewed in opposition to the religious message of her works. In a letter of March 17, 1956, to Shirley Abbott, O'Connor...
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SOURCE: "Julian and O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 101-08.
[In the following essay, Hall Petry compares Julian from O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" to the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate and discusses their rejection of Christianity.]
In a brief note published in 1978, Mary Frances Hopkins argues that critics of Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" should desist from imposing the name "Mrs. Chestny" on Julian's mother. "No author names characters more deftly than does O'Connor, with all the deadliness of a Thackeray or Waugh but with none of the weaknesses inherent in their lack of subtlety," so the omission of a name for the mother is not an oversight but rather a statement in itself. As much as there is a studied purpose behind O'Connor's decision to give her character the generic label of "Julian's mother," so too there is a rationale underlying the name of the son: Julian. Marion Montgomery sees it as evocative of St. Julian the Hospitaller, while a more suggestive explanation is offered by Josephine Hendin. She perceives a connection between the fictional Julian and the emperor Julian the Apostate (AD 331 or 332 to AD 363), remembered to this day for his vigorous campaign to rid the Roman Empire of its official religion, Christianity, and to reinstate the paganism of the...
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SOURCE: "O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge," in The Explicator, Vol. 45, No. 3, Spring, 1987, pp. 51-4.
[In the following essay, Hall Petry describes the place of the YWCA in O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
As Patricia Dinneen Maida has pointed out, Flannery O'Connor "does not flood her work with details; she is highly selective—choosing only those aspects that are most revealing." The justice of this observation in regard to "Everything That Rises Must Converge" was confirmed recently by John Ower, who argues persuasively that Julian's mother's having to offer a penny to the little Black boy in lieu of a nickel illustrates the ascendancy of Lincolnesque racial tolerance over Jeffersonian segregation in the South of the Civil Rights Movement. O'Connor's capacity to utilize detail symbolically in "Everything That Rises" is evident even in the destination of Julian's mother: the local "Y." Mentioned no less than five times in this brief story, the Y serves as a gauge of the degeneration of the mother's Old South family and, concomitantly, of the breakdown of old, church-related values in the United States of the mid-twentieth century.
As Julian's mother is wont to point out, she is related to the Godhighs and the Chestnys, prominent families of the Old South whose former status is conveyed nicely by the high-ceilinged, double-staircased mansion...
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SOURCE: "Flannery O'Connor's Inverted Saint's Legend," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 25, No. 1, Winter, 1988, pp. 76-8.
[In the following essay, Jauss asserts that in "Everything That Rises Must Converge" the name of the protagonist is an allusion to St. Julian Hospitator, and that "By subtly calling our attention to St. Julian and the story of his life, O'Connor transforms this story of a tragic bus trip to the Y into an ironic, inverted saint's legend."]
As many critics have noted, Flannery O'Connor's stories are populated with characters who bear symbolic names. Many of these names are so overtly symbolic that we wouldn't be surprised to encounter them in an allegory by Bunyan or Spenser: witness, among the many examples, Joy, Mrs. Hopewell, and Mrs. Freeman from "Good Country People"; Mr. Paradise from "The River"; Mr. Fortune from "A View of the Woods"; Sheppard from "The Lame Shall Enter First"; and, of course, the Misfit from "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Other names, such as Mrs. May and Mr. Greenleaf from "Greenleaf," are only slightly less overt in their symbolism. But at least one of O'Connor's symbolic names is subtle and obscure enough to have escaped critical notice. I am referring to Julian, the protagonist of "Everything that Rises Must Converge." As both the story's events and its references to sainthood and martyrdom suggest, Julian's name is an ironic allusion to St. Julian...
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SOURCE: "Miss O'Connor and Mrs. Mitchell: The Example of 'Everything That Rises,'" in The Southern Quarterly, Vol. XXVII, No. 4, Summer, 1989, pp. 5-15.
[In the following essay, Hall Petry outlines allusions to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind found in O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge."]
Flannery O'Connor knew only too well that she could not assume her audience brought a solid background in Christianity to their readings of her fiction. It was part of the price she paid for being an insistently Roman Catholic writer in the increasingly secularized United States of the mid-twentieth century. One element which she could count on being familiar to any American reader from any socioeconomic or educational stratum was, however, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. That familiarity enabled O'Connor to incorporate into her fiction various echoes of Mitchell's novel, echoes sometimes transparent and sometimes subtle, sometimes parodic and sometimes serious. In "A Late Encounter with the Enemy," for example, the reference to the "preemy" of twelve years before indicates that "General" George Poker Sash had attended the world premiere of the novel's movie version in Atlanta in 1939. Sadly, Sash's finest hour had come not during the Civil War, but during the premiere of the movie which, seventy-five years later, had romanticized and popularized the conflict. Likewise, in "A...
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SOURCE: "Everything That Rises Must Converge: O'Connor's Seven-Story Cycle," in Renascence, Vol. XLII, No. 4, Summer, 1990, pp. 187-212.
[In the following essay, Winn asserts that O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge is a short story cycle in which "O'Connor varies the location of her limited omniscient point of view and interweaves parallel thematic patterns to link together the seven stories."]
In modern fiction, writers have combined the aesthetics of the novel and the short story to construct grouping of interrelated stories that are too finely patterned to be described as a mere collection of stories and too dependent on individual components to be described as a novel. Among the names proposed for this new genre, Forrest Ingram's suggestion of "short story cycle" in Representative Short Story Cycles of the Twentieth Century most clearly represents its nature. He defines a short story cycle as "a book of short stories so linked to each other by their author that the reader's successive experience on various levels of the pattern of the whole significantly modifies his experience of each of its component parts." In this hybrid, writers combine the essential differences between the short story and the novel: each individual story within a cycle focuses upon a single moment of peculiar significance in the life of its protagonist, yet the sequence of stories traces a...
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SOURCE: "The Domestic Dynamics of Flannery O'Connor: Everything That Rises Must Converge," in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 38, No. 1, Spring, 1992, pp. 66-88.
[In the following essay, Wyatt discusses the domestic center of O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge.]
By her own avowal, Flannery O'Connor writes from a fixed perspective of Christian orthodoxy. "I write the way I do," she insists, "because (not though) I am a Catholic" and adds that all her stories "are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to accept it."
Her view that her stories are all of a piece clearly is not shared by many of her readers and critics, especially those outside her faith who have interpreted her works in ways that she would consider severe distortions of her materials and aims. For example, a variety of O'Connor's critics have expressed reservations ranging from doubt as to whether any religious intent is realized in her writings to the suspicion that her artistry is in fact not theological but demonic.
If O'Connor's fiction fails to resonate sufficiently her spiritual theme, part of the reason may lie in her approach to writing. Discussing this approach, she emphasizes her greater attention to the technical demands of the stories than to other criteria affecting the formation and portrayal of her characters. Similarly, to the charge...
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SOURCE: "Faulkner's 'Barn Burning' and O'Connor's 'Everything That Rises Must Converge,'" in CLA Journal, Vol. XXXVI, No. 4, June, 1993, pp. 371-83.
[In the following essay, Crocker and Evans outlines similarities between O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and Faulkner's "Barn Burning."]
As two of the most important American writers of this century, William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor wrote two of the most widely anthologized and widely read short stories of our time—"Barn Burning" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge." Although the relationship between the two writers has been a subject of occasional comment, such comment remains largely scattered and difficult to trace. In addition, although the two stories end in basically similar ways, these similarities seem not to have been discussed at any length. The links between the stories may be purely coincidental, or they may have been purposely designed. O'Connor greatly admired Faulkner (although her remarks about him seem not to have been brought together in one place before), and it is possible that her story was influenced—either consciously or unconsciously—by "Barn Burning." In any case, it seems worthwhile to collect O'Connor's comments on Faulkner, to gather some previous references to the connection between the two writers, and to note a few of the similarities between two of their most significant stories....
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