How did Flannery O’Connor's life influence her writing?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, Mary Flannery O’Connor, who dropped the Mary from her name when she started to publish her work, was an only child. Her parents, Edward Flannery O’Connor and Regina Cline O’Connor, were both devout Roman Catholics and brought their daughter up in their faith.  When Flannery was a teenager, in 1938, her father developed lupus, and the family moved to Milledgeville, Georgia to be closer to her mother's family. Her father died in of the disease in 1941. After graduating from a local college, Flannery received an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and was awarded a residency at Yaddo. In 1950, Flannery developed lupus, and moved home to Milledgeville to live with her mother, who cared for her until her death in 1964.

The first element of her life that affected her writing was religion. She remained a Roman Catholic throughout her life, and many of her stories reflect ethical and spiritual concerns influenced by her faith.

Next, her stories are usually set in the deep south, and reflect her deep personal knowledge of rural and small town Georgia life.

Another major element of her life that affects her writing is disease and disability. As someone who saw her father die of lupus when she was a teenager, and then developed the disease herself at the age of 25 and needed crutches to walk after 1955, she often included characters suffering from some disability or illness in her stories, such as Hulga, the protagonist of "Good Country People," who has a prosthetic leg.

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