With respect to Julian's self-identification, does he view himself as a man of the Old South, the New South, or Both?How would W.J. Cash's sociological study, "The Mind of the South", support your...

With respect to Julian's self-identification, does he view himself as a man of the Old South, the New South, or Both?How would W.J. Cash's sociological study, "The Mind of the South", support your argument? Why is this significant?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Julian wishes to see himself as a man of the "New South."  O'Connor establishes that Julian views himself as liberal and progressive.  In many respects, he views himself in this way because his mother is so opposite.  For example, he continually defines himself in stark opposition to his mother. Whereas his mother seems to pine for the days of old, Julian defines himself in a different light.  When his mother is rebuked on the bus, Julian illuminates this: "You needn’t act as if the world had come to an end... because it hasn’t. From now on you’ve got to live in a new world and face a few realities for a change. Buck up...it won't kill you.”  Julian feels very proud of the fact that he is a new man of this "new world," something that he feels his mother is not. He views himself as a member of the New South, in large part because his mother is of the old world.  Julian's insistence on a new and "true culture" of "the mind" is reflective of this difference between him and his mother.  Whether Julian wishes to tout his self- perceived liberalism as a way to get back at his mother or to assert his belief that his way is the right way, he views himself as a man of the New South.

I think that O'Connor's characterization of Julian converges with much of Cash's argument in "The Mind of the South."  Cash asserts the argument that the "New South" is not a realistic construction.  It simply looks it, while its original contents have not really changed:

The very legend of the Old South, for example, is warp and woof of the Southern mind. The "plantation" which prevailed outside the tidewater and delta regions was actually no more than a farm; its owner was, properly, neither a planter nor an aristocrat, but a backwoods farmer; yet the pretension to aristocracy was universal... Their pride and their legend, handed down to their descendants, are today the basis of all social life in the South.

Cash's argument suggests that the South seeks to pretend to be something it is not.  This clinging to "pretension" has defined the South.  O'Connor creates a similar level of pretension in the way that Julian ends up wilting. While confronted with his mother's stroke, Julian's aggressiveness and confidence disappear.  The ending of the story reveals him to be a child, lost and bewildered with conditions of change that befuddle him:

“Help, help!” he shouted, but his voice was thin, scarcely a thread of sound. The lights drifted farther away the faster he ran and his feet moved numbly as if they carried him nowhere. The tide of darkness seemed to sweep him back to her, postponing from moment to moment his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow.

In both Cash's breakdown of the South and O'Connor's depiction of Julian at the end of the story, there is a pretension revealed.  "Warp and woof" about "the new world" have been replaced with a "thin" voice and only "guilt and sorrow" remaining.  The mask removed, only a sense of emptiness remains in Julian and the South. Cash's depiction of the South and O'Connor's depiction of Julian's condition at the end of the short story is significant because both show the human frailty that exists within the Southern narrative. Just as Cash's Southerner is "totally blind" to what is happening, Julian suffers from the same affliction at the end of the short story.

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