O’Connor is widely considered one of the most significant writers ever produced by the United States. She was the subject of an unusual amount of critical attention as a young writer, and this fascination has continued over the decades since her death.
Less than a decade after O’Connor started writing, scholars began serious critical interpretation of her work. A special issue of the journal Critique was devoted entirely to her writing in 1958. Early approaches to her fiction tended to focus on the grotesque extremes of her characterization and the bleak violence of her plots.
As she responded to early interpretations with explicit explanations of her beliefs about art and faith in various lectures and essays (collected in 1969 under the title Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose), the critical focus shifted toward O’Connor’s moral framework and her religious vision.
The posthumous publication of her last collection of stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, further solidified O’Connor’s reputation as one of the strongest and most original American voices of her generation.
Granville Hicks described the stories in the collection as ‘‘the best things she ever wrote. They are superb, and they are terrible. She took a cold, hard look at human beings, and set down with marvelous precision what she saw.’’
Even Walter Sullivan, writing one of the book’s weaker reviews in the Hollins Critic, credited these ‘‘last fruits of Flannery O’Connor’s particular genius’’ for ‘‘work[ing] their own small counter reformation in a faithless world.’’
The main criticism of the volume focused on O’Connor’s singular purpose and the constant repetition of her main themes. ‘‘She had only a few ideas, but messianic feelings about them,’’ contended the Nation’s Webster Schott. He praised her for doing what she does superbly:
Myopic in her vision, Flannery O’Connor was among those few writers who raise questions...
(The entire section is 491 words.)