Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In almost all of her stories, O’Connor reveals her characters by their eyes. Here, Sarah Ruth has “icepick” eyes, and Parker’s eyes are “the same pale slate-color as the ocean,” reflecting “immense spaces around him.” Consequently, when Parker gets the tattoo of Christ on his back, the significance of what he has accepted is revealed by the all-demanding, penetrating eyes, under whose gaze Parker feels transparent.

O’Connor’s undisguised satire is apparent in Parker’s turning backward through the pictures of Christ; he rejects the milder, “up-to-date” versions of Christ for the older, more compelling Byzantine Christ. Irony, too, is a favorite technique of O’Connor and is usually quite glaring. For example, Parker’s shouting “GOD ABOVE” brings what he least expects—a response as surely as if his shout were a prayer.

The conclusion of “Parker’s Back” is a model of O’Connor’s economical storytelling and mythic vision. Parker, in the final scene, leans against the tree, beaten, rejected, “crucified,” as it were; but his “crying like a baby” suggests at the same time a rebirth, a new direction, a new life.

Parker's Back Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Asals, Frederick. Flannery O’Connor: The Imagination of Extremity. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982.

Asals, Frederick. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”: Flannery O’Connor. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1993.

Caruso, Teresa, ed. “On the Subject of the Feminist Business”: Re-reading Flannery O’Connor. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

Lake, Christina Bieber. The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.

O’Gorman, Farrell. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

Orvell, Miles. Flannery O’Connor: An Introduction. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.

Paulson, Suzanne Morrow. Flannery O’Connor: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1988.

Rath, Sura P., and Mary Neff Shaw, eds. Flannery O’Connor: New Perspectives. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

Robillard, Douglas, Jr. The Critical Response to Flannery O’Connor. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004.

Spivey, Ted R. Flannery O’Connor: The Woman, the Thinker, the Visionary. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.