In what way does O'Connor use the character of Julian and his mother to represent differing points of view in Everything that Rises must Converge by Flannery O'Connor?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The significant theme of this story is the generational gap between Julian and his mother, especially in  regards to white attitudes about African-Americans.  Julian is appalled by his mother's attitude that African-Americans can "rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence."  She is clearly of representative of the older generation who hold their racist attitudes, while thinking they are being fair-minded.  Julian, on the other hand, purposely sits by black people "in reparation as it were for his mother's sins."  The conflict is best summed up in their most concise argument.  He says that "true culture is in the mind" and she says, "it's in the heart." 

Julian thinks that he has everything figured out and that he isn't dominated by his mother, but ironically, all his actions and thoughts are in direct connection to her.  She guilts him into action; he fanatizes about ways to annoy her; he goads her about their family history.  The ultimately irony of the story is when the mother is attacked for giving a penny to a small black child on the bus.  Julian can finally get all of his frustration out and he thinks he can teach her a lesson, but it is this attack and his attack on her that kill her, and his last word "mother!" and the final line of story states that the "tide of darkness seemed to sweep him back to her."  He can understand that the world is a changed place, but he is going to be held back from partaking in that in any real way because of the guilt and sorrow he feels at her death.

jsmithson1 | Student

good answer sir

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Everything That Rises Must Converge

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