Extended Summary

“The Crop,” by Flannery O’Connor, reveals the secret inner life of forty-four-year-old Miss Willerton, a single woman who considers herself to be a talented writer of short fiction. Structured as a story within a story, “The Crop” develops Miss Willerton’s character and establishes the sad truth of her life while satirizing her artistic pretensions and the trite melodrama she churns out on her typewriter. The story features a modern setting; the physical location is not identified. In addition to Miss Willerton, “The Crop” includes three minor characters: Lucia, Bertha, and Garner. Miss Willerton lives with them, but her relationship to them and their relationships to each other are never clarified.

The story begins with Miss Willerton alone in the dining room, performing her “particular household accomplishment.” Her daily chore is to brush the crumbs from the dining room table, sweeping them carefully into the silver crumb-catcher. It is a task she enjoys. It allows her time apart from Lucia, Bertha, and Garner—time to think about a story to write. For Miss Willerton, choosing a subject for a story is the hardest part of writing one. This morning, as her thoughts wander, she considers writing a story about a French baker. Her reverie is interrupted when Lucia enters the dining room and criticizes Miss Willerton’s use of the crumb catcher; a brief spat ensues. After Lucia returns to the kitchen, Miss Willerton finishes her morning’s work and retires to her typewriter, where she plans to spend the day writing a new story.

Sitting before the machine, she again considers possible subjects for a new story. She rejects the idea of writing about a French baker—too colorless and lacking in “social tension.” She considers writing about teachers, but she rejects that idea also, remembering, “Teachers always made [her] feel peculiar.” Furthermore, they were “untimely” and not “even a social problem.” The idea of a social problem leads Miss Willerton to a Eureka! moment: She will write about sharecroppers. She knows nothing about sharecroppers but considers them to be “as arty a subject as any.” Furthermore, she reasons, “They would give her that air of social concern which was so valuable to have in the circles she was hoping to travel!” Thus inspired, Miss Willerton begins to type rapidly.

It is at this point in the narrative that the story’s point of view asserts itself most powerfully. The third-person omniscient point of view, limited to Miss Willerton, follows the intricate chronology of her thoughts as she writes the story and begins to relate personally to the characters she creates. From her idea of writing about a sharecropper, Miss Willerton creates the character of “Lot Motun,” a “tall, stooped, and shaggy” farmer with “sad eyes that made him look like a gentleman in spite of his red neck and big fumbling hands.”

The more Miss...

(The entire section is 1205 words.)