Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Circle in the Fire” was first published in The Kenyon Review in 1954, eight years after the writer burst onto the literary scene as an innovative short story author. The story was republished in 1955 in three separate volumes, including her short story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find; Prize Stories 1955: The O’Henry Awards; and The Best American Short Stories of 1955. It was also included in a posthumous short story collection, The Complete Stories, in 1971.
“A Circle in the Fire” is not necessarily considered O’Connor’s finest short work. However, the story exposes key themes from her oeuvre: grotesque characters, a strong sense of irony, a dark sense of humor and the role of religious faith in motivating characters. These themes are evident in stories such as “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” as well as in her novels, where protagonists battle to apply their sense of religious faith in difficult situations or while confronting lunatic or ridiculous characters.
Like most of O’Connor’s work, “A Circle in the Fire” appears to be set in the rural South during the first half of the twentieth century. Because three visitors appear from Atlanta, some believe the story is set in Georgia.