(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The fiction of Flannery O’Connor has been highly praised for its unrelenting irony, its symbolism, and its unique comedy. O’Connor is considered one of the most important American writers of the short story, and she is frequently compared with William Faulkner as a writer of short fiction.

For an author with a relatively small literary output, O’Connor has received an enormous amount of attention. More than twenty-five books devoted to her have appeared beginning in the early 1960’s, when significant critics worldwide began to recognize O’Connor’s gifts as a fiction writer. Almost all critical works have emphasized the bizarre effects of reading O’Connor’s fiction, which, at its best, powerfully blends the elements of southwestern humor, the southern grotesque, Catholic and Christian theology and philosophy, atheistic and Christian existentialism, realism, and romance. Most critics have praised and interpreted O’Connor from a theological perspective and noted how unusual her fiction is, as it unites the banal, the inane, and the trivial with Christian, though fundamentally humorous, tales of proud Georgians fighting battles with imaginary or real agents of God sent out to shake some sense into the heads of the protagonists.

As an ironist with a satirical bent, O’Connor may be compared with some of the best in the English language, such as Jonathan Swift and George Gordon, Lord Byron. It is the comic irony of her stories that probably attracts most readers—from the orthodox and religious to the atheistic humanists whom she loves to ridicule in some of her best fiction. Thus, as a comedian, O’Connor’s achievements are phenomenal, since through her largely Christian stories, she is able to attract readers who consider her beliefs outdated and quaint.

In her lifetime, O’Connor won recognition, but she would be surprised at the...

(The entire section is 763 words.)