The Violent Bear It Away, published in New York in 1960, is Flannery O’Connor’s darkly humorous Gothic novel about a Southern boy’s spiritual awakening. It charts the spiritual and physical journey of fourteen-year-old Francis Marion Tarwater, raised by his great-uncle in the backwoods of Alabama to be a prophet. Tarwater travels to the city, where he struggles against the need to deny his spiritual inheritance and the call of God. O’Connor paints a macabre picture of Southern life and religious fundamentalism and parodies the blind selfassurances of modern secular thinking. The novel is unsettling because it offers no easy truths; its hero is an unlikable boy who learns that doing God’s work entails violence, unreason, even madness. It is not, as might be expected, a parody of religious fanaticism, but a psychological study of the mysterious, frightening, and sometimes offensive nature of the religious calling. Stark religious symbolism and Biblical allusions unite to explore themes of spiritual hunger, faith versus reason, and the battle for the soul. O’Connor wrote the novel over eight years while suffering from lupus, publishing the first chapter as a story, “You Can’t Be Poorer Than Dead,” in 1955. Her last major work to be published in her lifetime, The Violent Bear It Away contains elements found in much of O’Connor’s fiction. Her only other novel, Wise Blood (1952), fuses humor and horror to examine questions of faith, suffering, family relationships, and intellectual versus religious understanding. The novel was not particularly well received when it first appeared; many critics found it strange and impenetrable. But, to some extent because of O’Connor’s reputation as a master of the short story, the novel is now considered an important work in the Gothic tradition and acknowledged to be O’Connor’s best work of longer fiction.