Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In almost all of her stories, O’Connor reveals her characters by their eyes. Here, Sarah Ruth has “icepick” eyes, and Parker’s eyes are “the same pale slate-color as the ocean,” reflecting “immense spaces around him.” Consequently, when Parker gets the tattoo of Christ on his back, the significance of what he has accepted is revealed by the all-demanding, penetrating eyes, under whose gaze Parker feels transparent.

O’Connor’s undisguised satire is apparent in Parker’s turning backward through the pictures of Christ; he rejects the milder, “up-to-date” versions of Christ for the older, more compelling Byzantine Christ. Irony, too, is a favorite technique of O’Connor and is usually quite glaring. For example, Parker’s shouting “GOD ABOVE” brings what he least expects—a response as surely as if his shout were a prayer.

The conclusion of “Parker’s Back” is a model of O’Connor’s economical storytelling and mythic vision. Parker, in the final scene, leans against the tree, beaten, rejected, “crucified,” as it were; but his “crying like a baby” suggests at the same time a rebirth, a new direction, a new life.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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