illustrated portrait of American author Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor

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What characteristics make Flannery O'Connor a southern writer?

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The identification of “southern writer” may be applied to any author who lives in, sets their works in, or writes about characters who hail from the US South. It is often applied to those authors who indicate that the Southern environment played a significant role in shaping those characters and who excel at evoking an atmosphere that seems uniquely Southern. For 20th century writers, this often includes evoking antebellum ideologies, emphasizing spirituality and death, and exploring the implications of unwholesome sexual activity or desire.

Flannery O’Connor created memorable characters, many of whom experience crises of faith, in a variety of Southern settings, especially small town and even more remote rural hinterlands. Their behavior is often so exaggerated and outlandish that they have been called “grotesques.” Writing about this classification in the essay, “The Fiction Writer and His Country,” she noted the preoccupation, often misplaced, on “monstrosities” and “everything deformed and grotesque.” These exaggerations often place O’Connor as second only to William Faulkner in the sub-genre of Southern Gothic fiction.

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