Monday, January 11, 2010

The Grotesque

"Everything that rises must converge."  American writer, Flannery O'Connor

In her short life, the author Flannery O'Connor wrote many short stories, some poems and few novels. Suffering from a debilitating disease which she would not survive, she forged on until her end at age 39. She is regarded in modern American literary circles as a brilliant and unique talent. Her view of art was large. Rather than restricted, Ms. O'Connor explored both the natural and the supernatural worlds through her work. Writing about O'Connor's vision, author Mary Reichardt records, "doctrine actually provides an instrument for penetrating reality." Her work concerns itself with themes of sin, grace and salvation. Writing principally about what she knew best, the Protestantism of deep south America, she is "intrigued by the southern evangelical imperative to decide unequivocally for or against Jesus.... the American Protestant tendency toward individualism [is] not only inadequate, but even in its extreme expression, destructive," writes Reichardt of O'Connor.

Flannery O'Connor directed her eye toward 'secular agnostics' and some Protestants who she believed diluted the facts of salvation as she sees them, de-emphasized that historical fact of the great sacrifices of the Christ, as she understood them. For Flannery O'Connor, grace was not easy or cheap. As she suffered each and every day of her young, short life, to her a revelation was delivered, and she, through her immortal writing, wished to pass those revelations on, even after death. She wrote about grace that comes in often painful and horrifying ways; invading otherwise complacent lives, she explored violence and its ability to return a person to absolute reality, to the simple facts of life which later pave the way to grace. O'Connor observed that for some, "their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work."

By exploring radical themes of self-deception, O'Connor becomes firm in her belief that "everything that rises must converge." She writes a short story by this title. As a writer, she felt entirely free to examine and explore these themes. She felt no need to 'play gods,' or to tidy up the world by creating new universes. She rather felt perfectly free to examine the one world, already existing, and to record the art of what she saw. Influenced by French theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, O'Connor wrote a series of short stories, seven in all, in which she examines the various state of consciousness. The first story in the series as arranged by O'Connor is Everything That Rises Must Converge and the last story is titled Revelation.

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