Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Judas” is another example of O’Connor’s penchant for subjective narrators who comment, often comically and unwittingly, on their own experiences. In his study of the genre of the short story, The Lonely Voice (1962), O’Connor made the now-famous complaint that the modern short story “no longer rang with the tone of a man’s voice speaking.” By way of correction, he always gave his stories a quality of human speech, a sense that an actual person, rather than a disembodied voice, was bringing the tale to the reader. Nowhere is this more evident than in “Judas.”

The story begins clearly enough with Jerry’s saying good-bye to his mother and her asking if he will be late, but then the first full paragraph begins, “That was all we said, Michael John, but it stuck in my mind.” The reader pauses, rereads the passage, and wonders who Michael John may be. The inquiry is never answered, but the name appears again out of nowhere on the last page when Jerry reviews his life with his mother, “I remembered all our life together from the night my father died; our early Mass on Sunday; our visits to the pictures, and our plans for the future, and Christ! Michael John, it was as if I was inside her mind while she sat by the fire waiting for the blow to fall.” Michael John is obviously Jerry’s immediate audience, and the story is a pointed monologue directed to a boon companion. Time has clearly passed since the events narrated, but...

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