“Gawd Owns Them Woods”: The Intersectionality of Religion, Gender, and Class in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Circle in the Fire”

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Adrienne Flippin, Student (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site: http://library.unca.edu/
Merritt Moseley

Abstract: Flannery O’Connor wrote “A Circle in the Fire” in 1954, while living on her family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. While many critics have focused on the biographical elements of her work, such as the rural settings and Christian faith, others argue that O’Connor was much more than a Roman Catholic apologist. It certainly seems so in “A Circle in the Fire,” in which the impoverished, orphaned son of a former hired hand returns to the rural estate of Mrs. Cope and her daughter Sally Virginia, bringing two other boys from Atlanta with him. Mrs. Cope attempts to handle the boys as she handles her black employees; she is motherly, but also condescending, exerting her moral and social superiority. The boys disobey her, claiming that the masculine presence of “Gawd” owns the property and Mrs. Cope. When they cause chaos, young Sally Virginia dresses like a man and goes to set them straight with her toy guns, but she fails to confront them. Expressing their desire to build a parking lot, the boys set the woods on fire. In the story’s conclusion, Sally Virginia compares the boys to the prophets from the Bible story of King Nebuchadnezzar, who save the king from worshipping a false idol. This thesis contends that the story’s conclusion reinforces the idea that Mrs. Cope has created a false sense of security for herself and Sally Virginia by running the rural estate. The boys intrude with harsh reality, which includes industrialism, male privilege, poverty, and revolutionary piety.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Flannery O'Conner, gender issues, American fiction, Georgia, religion

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