Flannery O'Connor's themes are so traditional as to make her fiction seem unique within the context of the 50s. During a period in which regionalism was becoming suspect, O'Connor rooted her hilariously—often painfully—textured concrete reality in the regionalism of the Georgia sector of the Bible Belt. In a time whose literature still avoided absolutes in its various existential stances, she presents an anti-existential vision of a world offered the mystery of grace, the possibility of redemption through violent revelation. While always aware of being a practicing Catholic in the Protestant South, O'Connor is most fully aware of her challenge as an artist in a much broader area: "the business of fiction is to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind."
A facile explanation of her reputation would be to ignore her fusion of Catholic mystery and Southern manners and point rather to the extraordinary verve of her brilliant style by which she presents grotesque characters experiencing horror coalesced with dark comedy. (pp. 111-12)
Much attraction lies in O'Connor's ability to depict her characters' shallowness in one adroit comment …, to expose their love of possessions as thoroughly alienated from what is natural …, and to present the characters' self-parodies through an outrageous image….
Yet one cannot stop at this point, for her portraits of the physically grotesque reflect the spiritually distorted. (p. 112)
Just as her readers must recognize the grotesque as something other than horrific sensationalism, O'Connor's characters must recognize through violent revelation the grotesque as ugly, as unnatural distortion, and thus achieve the possibility of grace. (p. 113)
This recognition of the grotesque is accomplished through a violent displacement unleashing epiphanies with...
(The entire section is 790 words.)