There are many ways that a writer's life influences their writing. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Revelation” are both excellent examples of how adversity in Flannery O’Connor’s life shaped the characters, symbols, and subject matter in her writing. In an essay “Writing Short Stories,” O’Connor says she “doubts that many writers know where they are going when they begin something… she could not even guess at [That] until she was already there.”(Campbell 96)
For example, the majority of O'Connor's short story “Revelation,” takes place in a doctor’s waiting room, a place that O’Connor, while ailing from the autoimmune disease lupus, undoubtedly frequented. In addition to the waiting rooms’ prevalence in O’Connor’s’ life, it offers readers symbolic appeal. It provides a state of limbo from where the main character, Mrs. Turpin, reveals her personal attributes and values. Mrs. Turpin, a heavy set hardworking woman, dislikes anyone she judges lazy; her ‘revelation’ exposes her anxieties that these people will may go to heaven before her despite her efforts.
In another short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” O'Connor's character known only as “Misfit” symbolizes everything that does not belong in the picture perfect family life. O’Connor paints a typical Southern family when she introduces character like Grandma, her son Bailey, his wife, and their children June Starr, John Wesley, and another infant. She introduces the arcane ‘misfit’ symbol in the beginning of the story, yet the “Misfits” impact does not fully develop until the end of the story. This use of symbolism may reflect Flannery O’Connor’s first knowledge of her own illness and its impending effects on her life. O’Connor first knows of her own illness and symbolically introduces the Misfits character into the story. Later, O’Connor realizes her illness will overcome her; so, she symbolically allows herself [picture perfect family] to be over come by the illness [shot].
In addition to Flannery O’Connor’s symbolism, her frequent use of contrite characters that employ racial slurs aimed towards unfortunates and Negroes make her work unique. The grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard To Find” holds similarly disturbing racial views to Mrs. Turpin from “Revelation;” Grandma refers to a black boy as a pick-a-ninny, and she does so immediately after chastising her grandson for referring to Tennessee as a “hillbilly dumping ground.” Despite Grandma and O'Connor's constant need to appear prim, proper, and in control they become the weak. Grandma when she becomes hysterical while facing the ‘misfit’ and O'Connor when faced with sure death from Lupus. Mrs. Turpin alienates the underprivileged as well, including white trash, and Negroes, and others social degenerates; she would actually rather be reborn a black woman over white trash as long as she acts like her hard working white character.
Besides powerful racial undertones, the ethereal subject matter of Flannery O’Connor’s stories overwhelms readers. While many writers take on subjects such as sports, or nature, or anything concrete; O’Connor chooses death and its ambiguous timing as the subject for the short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and the powerful vision of an overworked housewife in “Revelation.” Like Edgar Allen Poe, O’Connor’s intangible subject matter gives her writing a chilling morbidity, like in Poe's writing the "bad guys" do not escape humanity and ussually become the hero.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 254.
O’Connor, Flannery. “Revelation.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed Kennedy, X.J. and Gioi, Dana. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 265.
Campbell, Ewing. “Raymond Carver: A Study of Short Fiction.” Twayne Publishers, New York. 1992. 96.
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