Religion and Reality: Literature and Prophecy in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ashley Hicks, Student (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Lori Horvitz

Abstract: In 1960 Flannery O’Connor published her second and final novel, The Violent Bear it Away. Like O’Connor’s other works, the novel is steeped in religious themes and symbolism. It centers around Francis Tarwater, a young man who struggles between two conflicting destinies: that of a prophet and that of an educated secular man. At its publication, the novel was not nearly as well-received by critics or general audiences as O’Connor’s other works. The violent nature of the novel and the depiction of “backwoods fundamentalists,” as literary critic William Shea calls them, turned many readers off. Scholars have been examining the religious nature of O’Connor’s work for decades, and the reception of this novel was particularly polarizing. Although virtually all critics agree that O’Connor’s work was heavily influenced by her position as a devout Roman Catholic living in the Protestant South, O’Connor’s letters indicate, and critics such as Karl Martin agree, that the connection goes deeper than that. This thesis examines the ways in which O'Connor viewed herself as a kind of literary prophet by comparing the grotesquerie of the fictional Francis Tarwater with the reality of O’Connor’s own life.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Flannery O'Conner, religion, symbolism

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