The Habit of Being Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series The Habit of Being Analysis

Flannery O’Connor

Masterpieces of Women's Literature The Habit of Being Analysis

O’Connor’s letters paint a self-portrait in words. They offer an intimate glimpse of a woman perfecting her art and life despite a debilitating illness. She reveals her considerable intellect, modesty, self-confidence, honesty, and humor. Correspondence was very important to O’Connor. When she lived with the Fitzgeralds, she walked daily to the mailbox a mile away, always to find a letter from her mother, to whom O’Connor also wrote every single day. This writing habit became even more important once illness restricted her home. She writes a friend in October, 1951, that mail is very eventful for her. Occasionally she mentions the disagreeable effects of her cortisone treatments, but she remains cheerfully focused on her work and on her friends’ lives. “Let me hear how you do” often occurs in her letters. They testify to her joy of life and her exploration of the full range of her talents. She enthusiastically and regularly wrote friends—(most often fellow writers), her agent and editor, clerics, academics, and even people whom she did not know well. Anyone could write her and get an answer, if not a correspondence.

Central issues in her letters include her and others’ writing, philosophy, religion, contemporary politics, and day-to-day events. During the sixteen years covered, O’Connor worked on two dozen short stories and two novels; thus, the letters often refer to the writing, publishing, and reviewing of her work. Half of writing, she confesses, is overcoming the revulsion felt when sitting down to it. She requests advice about her work from the Fitzgeralds, Elizabeth and Robert Lowell, Caroline Gordon Tate, Elizabeth McKee, Robert Giroux, and Maryat Lee. She also shared her writing with other writers who were establishing their own notable careers: Katherine Anne Porter, Cecil Dawkins, Elizabeth Bishop, Walker Percy, J. F. Powers, and John Hawkes, to name a...

(The entire section is 776 words.)