The Violent Bear It Away

by Flannery O’Connor

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What demonic imagery appears in T"he Violent Bear it Away"?  

In this book, Tarwater is actually the one who drowns his nephew. This was a point in the book I had a hard time understanding because I thought that he was trying to save him. However, once I read further in the book, it all made sense. The devil had been following Tarwater around and taking advantage of him making him do things that he did not want to do. He drowned the boy because he had been told by the devil to do so.

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Flannery O'Connor's work is always fraught with theological and religious imagery and implications. From the very beginning of The Violent Bear it Away, she begins weaving religion into Tarwater's world. His great-uncle, "The Prophet," is always telling him to "expect the Lord to call himself." After his great-uncle's death, Tarwater flees from the religious devotion immediately. He first and foremost burns the house in which his dead great-uncle lies, knowing that he wanted to be buried. He is essentially cleansing himself of that life. Then, when he goes to live with his uncle, Rayber, he realizes that his great-uncle's calling—to kidnap Rayber's idiot son and baptize him—has been transferred to him. Ultimately, Tarwater succeeds in "baptizing" the child, but he drowns him in the process on purpose. He then begins on his way back to his great-uncle's home and is raped by a man he hitches a ride from. It is at this point that Tarwater realizes that the "friend" he has seen showing up at every turn, guiding him all the way from burning the house to drowning the child, is in fact fiendish—perhaps even the devil himself. Rayber's brand of demonic activities—"saving" from baptism and becoming a secular monk—are nothing in comparison to Tarwater's succumbing to the demonic voices in his head. While Rayber failed in drowning his son because of his unreasonable love for him, Tarwater succeeded. 

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