Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” Author Profile: Born March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia Grew up in Catholic family that had lived in the South for generations Died at age of 39 of lupus, the same disease her father died of Considered a Southern Gothic author
Southern Gothic Literature A genre of literature, unique to American literature Relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot Explores social issues and reveals the cultural character of the American South Avoids perpetuating Antebellum (pre-Civil War) stereotypes like the Southern belle, the contented slave, or the righteous Christian preacher Stories often about misfits and fanatics (grotesque characters) from the American South and often address issues of violence and spiritual faith
O’Connor’s Use of The Grotesque Situations, places, or characters that possess creepy qualities, typically racial bigotry and excessive arrogance – but enough good traits that readers find themselves interested nevertheless. O’Connor says, “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
O’Connor: A Southern Gothic Author Taking her catholic background VERY seriously, O’Connor describes her literature as stories about original sin. Although she wanted to teach her faith, she did not want to be didactic. She chose this genre as a means of entertaining and persuading. She writes about moments in which grace, usually in the form of violence, descends on her comical characters, sometimes opening their eyes to an awful realization, sometimes killing them. O’Connor felt that a violent shock was necessary to bring both her characters and her readers to an awareness of the powerful reality of spirituality.
Protagonist vs. Antagonist Protagonist – often perceived as the hero, he is the main character in fiction or drama. He is, however, NOT ALWAYS the “good guy.” Anti-hero –A central character in a work of literature who lacks traditional heroic qualities such as courage, physical prowess, integrity. Anti-heroes typically distrust conventional values and generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control. Although they’re not morally ideal, readers often want them to succeed and empathize with them. Antagonist – often perceived as the villain, he is the character or force that blocks the protagonist. (Who/What is Joy- Hulga’s antagonist at this point?)
O’Connor’s Protagonist as Logical Positivist / Atheist Logical Positivism: a theory that discounts theology (religion) and primarily focuses on science. Knowledge is based on logic and grounded in observable facts.
Or is she a Nihilist? Nihilism: a philosophical position which says that the world is without meaning, purpose, truth, or value. Nihilists generally argue that there is no proof of a higher ruler or creator, a “true morality” does not exist; therefore, life has no truth, and no action can be preferable to any other.
Some additional terms Flashback: An interruption of a work’s chronology to describe or present an incident that occurred prior to the main time frame of a work’s action. Pathos: a quality of a story’s action that stimulates the audience to feel pity for a character. Pathos is always an aspect of tragedy, but is this tale tragic? Pathos may also be present in comedy, so is this tale satirical? Allegory: A symbolic narrative in which the details imply a secondary meaning. The characters often represent moral qualities. To recognize allegory, we must “read between the lines” and analyze the author’s symbols.