"The Geranium" and "Judgement Day" can be seen as two versions of the same story. Please describe the most significant differences between them, and what these revisions reveal about how the...

"The Geranium" and "Judgement Day" can be seen as two versions of the same story.

Please describe the most significant differences between them, and what these revisions reveal about how the author's writing and perspective changed over the course of her career.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her analyses of O'Connor earlier short stories' use of spatiality, Louise Westling observes there is a "strong sense of place despite the absence of a geopolitical region", and characters are dissatisfied and unhappy in the place they find themselves. This is certainly the case with old Dudley in "The Geranium (1946)," lately come from the Jim Crow South to live with his daughter in her New York apartment in which there "was no place to be where there wasn't somebody else" because one room leads to every other room. In the halls that look like "dog runs," Dudley is disorientated. In contrast, his old home at the boarding house has an established order, and all the levels and rooms are harmonious. There, Dudley was the man of the house because the other men are black and live beneath him in the basement, and the women are at another end of the house. Although very friendly with Rabie, there is the Southern understanding between the two men when they fish or hunt together.

Dudley is further disturbed by learning a new neighbor is black, and he orders his daughter to have nothing to do with him even though his friends back home are black men. But, there in his boarding house is an established social order unlike in New York and the men "know their places." Ironically,when Dudley later steps out of the New York apartment in order to descend on a errand for his daughter, he slips on the stairs and is helped by the "Negro" who talks to him about hunting and knows about guns. When Dudley gets back to his daughter's door, the Negro pats him on the back; Dudley is outraged that he would make such a condescending gesture to a white man.

Later, as he looks for the geranium on a ledge of another apartment window, a man yells at him for staring in his apartment all the time. Further, as the only natural remnant of his old life, the geranium, a symbol of his alienation has fallen off the ledge, its roots exposed.

In "Judgement Day(1965)," a transfigured version of "The Geranium," there is more of the complex style of O'Connor. In this narrative, Tanner comes to live with his daughter in New York and is unhappy at leaving his home which Coleman and he have built. Much of the story is told through flashbacks, as Tanner recalls his epiphany when, after carving wooden glasses, he hands them to a black man and sees himself in Coleman; after this, they become fast friends and build a house, although Coleman sleeps on a pallet near Tanner's bed.

One day the landowner appears, telling Tanner he can only stay if he minds a still for him,refusing, Tanner goes to live with his daughter. But, nostalgia makes him want to return to the South although unable because of having suffered a stroke after his beating from calling a black man actor and an atheist "Preacher" and speaking to him as an inferior. Tanner recovers, but his homesickness is so great that he daydreams of returning, dead and in his coffin. When the coffin arrives, Tanner sits up and cries,"Judgment Day!"

Determined to return home, Tanner departs one day, but falls down the stairs in the hallway. When the actor passes, Tanner thinks he is his old friend Colemen and calls out, "Preacher." This time he is shoved into the railings and suffers another stroke; moreover, he dies from the violence. "Judgement Day" is classic O'Connor with epiphany and grace through violence, a much more sophisticated and tightly-woven story than is "The Geranium" which has a single spatial focus and less characterization.

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