The Violent Bear It Away

by Flannery O’Connor

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249

Do you think that Francis Tarwater is a true prophet, a madman, or something else? How do you think people can recognize when someone is a true prophet, if there is such a thing? Research the life of one of the biblical prophets mentioned in the novel (Moses, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist) and write a short essay about him. Do you see any parallels in the life of your chosen prophet and the life of Tarwater?

Research the Christian rite of baptism. What is the symbol of the rite, according to the Catholic Church? Is there any variation among the other sects of Christianity, such as Methodism or Lutheranism? What do you think O’Connor does when she uses drowning as a symbol for baptism in her novel? Write a short essay in which you discuss O’Connor’s understanding and treatment of baptism in the novel.

Who do you find to be a more sympathetic character: Francis Tarwater or George Rayber? Why? Who do you think would be more sympathetic to most modern-day readers? Create a dramatic debate between the two characters in which each presents his point of view. Whose do you think is more compelling? Does your audience agree?

Look for stories in the newspaper about religious believers who commit violent acts in the name of their faith. How are these people portrayed by the media? Is there an assumption of their insanity? Do you think there is any justification for what they have done?

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