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Research paper topic: Flannery Oconnor: Themes - 1326 words
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Flannery O'connor: Themes Flannery OConnors Themes: Alienation, True Country, and the Demonic OConnor uses many themes throughout all of her works. Her most criticized themes are alienation, true country life, and the demonic. Throughout the short stories of A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Good Country People, The Life you Save Might be your Own, The Geranium, A Circle in the Fire, and The River OConnor speaks of her heritage and her religious faults. Miss OConnor created characters and their dramatic oppositions by separating, exaggerating, and polarizing elements in herself (Hyman 359). OConnor could be considered a writer of apocalyptic violence, a grotesque vision, and vulgarity (Hyman 358). Her themes are a reflection of her own life, and her charactes are a reflection herself.
She shows the reader her life in a religious, alienated south. OConnor uses many themes throughout her works; the most powerful of her themes are alienation, true country, and the demonic. Alienation of the classes is strong throughout most of OConnors works. Racism is not the only alienation OConnor uses, but she also alienates against physical deformities. Hulga, who is alienated by her mother, in Good Country People is a prime example of OConnors reflection of her own deformity.
In the story Hulga has a wooden leg by which OConnor reflects her own handicap, by the disease disseminated lupus, of having to use crutches to walk. Mrs. Hopewell, Hulgas mother, thinks of people as classes and kinds showing her nave southern nature (Paulson 50). In The Life you Save Might be your Own Mr. Shiftlet, who has one arm, runs off and leaves Lucynell, a mentally challenged girl isolated from society, at a gas station by herself.
This story shows how Shiftlet was alienated against and forced to become a drifter, who stumbles upon the isolated Lucynell. Julian in Everything That Rises Must Converge is strongly against alienation of blacks, but with a twist of irony he is alienated from his own mother, who is a nave southern woman. In the end of the story Julians mother feels alienated from her son when she is confronted by her black double. In OConnors short stories she condemns the white peoples relationship to the black race as one-sided and narcissistic (Paulson 72). OConnor could be considered a local color writer, in that she writes about the true southern country life. These families of tenant farmers usually include a man who is stupid, incompetent, and malevolent; a wife with an eye for defaults upon her children; and two or more mindless and voracious children (Hyman 350). In Good Country People Mrs.
Hopewell is the stereotypical lady that Hyman talked of, finding faults in her children, Hulga, and so quick to judge others by their outward appearance. In The Life you Save Might be your Own OConnor shows the barren landscape of the countryside and the kind of people who dwells among it. In the story Lucynells mother takes care of herself and daughter with no help from any male figures, until Mr. Shiftlet shows up. This shows OConnors true country life, which is quite contradictory to the common man of the house stereotype of southern life. Another example of this contradiction is A Circle in the Fire in which the main character, Mrs.
Caldwell, runs a prosperous farm. OConnors true country can be summed up with a quote from Hawkes OConnor committing herself creatively to the antics of soulless characters who leer, or bicker, or stare at obscenities on walls, or maim each other on a brilliant but barren earth (398). These characters roaming OConnors true country are evil and demonic, and what Walter Allen called God-intoxicated(Hyman 352). OConnors short stories, with devilry as a theme, base around a central character, who later in the story has an encounter with some sort of a demonic character which ends in tragedy. In The River the central character is a young boy named Bevel, who later returns to where he was baptized to find Jesus. Mr. Paradise, an atheist, tries to stop him, Bevel flees, from what he thought was an ancient water monster, underwater drowning to death.
In Good Country People Hulga plans to seduce a young nave Bible salesman. She coaxes him up to a hayloft, the young Bible salesman transforms into the seducer and gets Hulga to remove her wooden leg along with her dignity. In an ironic twist, that is a trademark of OConnors short stories, Hulgas thinking she was the predator turned into the prey with an opening of the salesmans briefcase revealing a hollowed out Bible filled with whiskey, pornographic playing cards, and other fake limbs. Hulgas wooden leg and her dignity belong now and forever to a demonic Bible salesman. This is a projection of OConnors own self, surviving through a test with the Devil. OConnors most famous and demonic character of all her short stories is the Misfit in A Good Man is Hard to Find.
The Misfit in the beginning of the story is a heathen, when in fact he is quite the intellectual with strong views on religion and society. The Misfit and the grandmother have an intellectual war with the grandmother on the side of God and the Misfit preaching from a different pulpit, Satanism (Hyman 353). The grandmother, having won the battle of wits, reaches out to the Misfit in a Christ-like manner to forgive him. The Misfit recoils in horror, aware that the grandmother has opened herself to the Christian mysteries and therefore is threatening, if not totally undoing, his life founded on the impossibility of knowing Christ (Brinkmeyer 161). The Misfit could not believe in something he has never seen before, and OConnor uses these demonic characters to vent her own religious doubts. OConnor uses many themes throughout her works, the most powerful being alienation, true country, and the demonic. Her short stories reflect her society in the alienated, religious, South.
Although a devote Catholic, OConnor had an immense intellectual background, which refused her to be a gentile, nave, doubtless, Southern woman like so many in her time, and it showed in her short stories. She could put everything about a character into a single look, everything she had and knew into a single story. She knew people with the finality with which she claimed to know the distance from hell to heaven (Friedman 60). Throughout her life OConnor encountered face to face the themes she dealt with in all her short stories. Living in an alienated society OConnor purged herself of her heritage by writing such stories as Good Country People, The Life You Save Might be Your Own, and Everything That Rises Must Converge. OConnor tired of the stereotypical Southern life she brought out the truth in the stories A Circle in the Fire, Good Country People, and The Life you Save Might be your Own.
OConnor when she doubted her faith, wrote The River, A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Good Country People to cleanse herself through her writings. OConnor in her time did what other writers tried. She dealt with the decay in society in a truthful yet painful way (Spivey 202). Bibliography Works Cited Brinkmeyer, Robert H., Jr. The Art and Vision of Flannery OConnor.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. Friedman, Melvin J., and Beverly Lyon Clark. Critical Essays on Flannery OConnor. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1985. 60-61. Hawkes, John.
Flannery OConnors Devil. Sewanee Review 70 (1962): 395-407. Hyman, Stanley Edgar. Flannery OConnor. American Writers. OConnor, Flannery.
A Good Man is Hard to Find. The Complete Stories. New York: Noonday Press, 1971. 117-134. ---.
A Circle in the Fire 175-194. ---. Everything That Rises Must Converge 405-421. ---. The Geranium 3-15.
---. Good Country People 271-292. ---. The Life You Save Might be Your Own 145-157. ---.
The River 157-175. Paulson, Suzanne Morrow. Flannery OConnor: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988. Spivey, Ted R. Flannery OConnors View of God and Man.
Studies in Short Fiction 1 (1964): 200-06. Thesis and Dissertations.
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