The Eternal Crossroads

The Eternal Crossroads: The Art of Flannery O'Connor

Leon V. Driskell
Joan T. Brittain
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Eternal Crossroads
    Book Description:

    Flannery O'Connor was a writer of extraordinary power and virtuosity. Her strong supple prose blends humor, pathos, satire, and grotesquerie which leads the reader to the evil at the center of the self's labyrinth. There, she confronts that evil with originality and power, pulling the reader into consideration of the terrifying dependencies of love in the recesses of the heart.

    This study focuses on Flannery O'Connor's sense of the coincidence of the eternal and cosmic with worldly time and place -- "the eternal crossroads" -- and how that sense controls and infuses her fiction. From an examination of various influences upon Miss O'Connor's work -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Mauriac, Nathaniel West, and Hawthorne -- the authors consider her novels and stories, as well as several stories never collected. Their textual analysis shows that her structures, images, motifs, and symbols became vehicles for anagogical meaning as she progressed from early promise to artistic fulfillment.

    Considering Miss O'Connor's own comments on her writing, the authors illuminate some frequently misunderstood features of her work, such as her "grotesques" and her stress on death and violence. In so doing they make an important contribution to our understanding of how Flannery O'Connor arrived at "the eternal crossroads."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6270-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Eternal Crossroads
    (pp. 1-13)

    In one of her essays, “The Regional Writer,” Flannery O’Connor spoke of “the peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet.” Though Miss O’Connor’s task as a writer was to find the location of that “peculiar crossroads,” her personal crossroads was Andalusia, her Georgia farmhouse near Milledgeville, where she lived with her widowed mother and indulged her fancy for raising poultry. The world came often to Andalusia, and most of the visitors took away at least one peacock feather as well as respect for Miss O’Connor’s unpretentious and frequently wry humor.

    Like another unmarried American woman writer, Emily...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Specific Influences: Mauriac, Hawthorne, & West
    (pp. 14-32)

    Because Miss O’Connor’s use of the Bible is constant and because the overall meaning of her work so nearly parallels the thought of Teilhard de Chardin, we will examine biblical influence in conjunction with individual analyses of stories and will conclude our study with an examination of her response to Teilhard. Meantime, however, assessment of three other influences on Miss O’Connor—François Mauriac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Nathanael West—is no less necessary than logical at this point, for those influences relate specifically to aspects of her structure and style as well as to her birth as an artist and her...

  7. CHAPTER THREE ‘Wise Blood’ & what Came Before
    (pp. 33-58)

    Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, may owe part of its excellence to nine pages of comments sent her by Caroline Gordon, who read the first revision of the book. Robert Giroux had accepted the first draft for publication by Harcourt, Brace, and Miss O’Connor asked her friend Robert Fitzgerald to send the revision to Caroline Gordon. She later asked if Miss Gordon would read the second revision. As Fitzgerald notes in his introduction toEverything That Rises Must Converge, Miss O’Connor acknowledged that Miss Gordon’s comments “certainly increased my education…. All the changes are efforts after what she suggested...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Expanded Vision: From the Tower of Babel to Vicarious Atonement
    (pp. 59-80)

    In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, as in her final collection of stories, Miss O’Connor employs a framing device similar to the novelistic structure she perfected in her two longer works of fiction,Wise BloodandThe Violent Bear It Away. The fact that both collections conclude with stories totally revised from their earlier published forms supports the idea of her conscious use of a frame as a fictional device.

    Miss O’Connor’s cumulative meaning inA Good Man Is Hard to Findgoes far beyond an indictment of man for his innate depravity: her stories about original sin...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE A Second Novel & Related Stories
    (pp. 81-103)

    The Violent Bear It Away appeared in 1960, but it had been in the working stage as early as 1953, when Miss O’Connor wrote to Robert Fitzgerald that she had a “nice gangster” in her new novel. As Fitzgerald observes in the introduction toEverything That Rises Must Converge(p. xxi), Rufus Florida Johnson disappeared from the novel and “turned up a long time later” in another story, “The Lame Shall Enter First” (Sewanee Review[Summer 1962]). Two works published in 1955 are also directly related toThe Violent Bear It Away:“You Can’t Be Poorer than Dead” (New World...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Posthumous Collection
    (pp. 104-146)

    Having Established the nature of Miss O’Connor’s frame forEverything That Rises Must Converge, we must yet remark her thematic development in the remaining stories through the accumulation of significant symbols. Spectacles, for instance, recur in this collection as one of Miss O’Connor’s means of establishing the difference between spiritual vision and physical sight. The Negro actor’s hornrimmed glasses oppose the empty frames of Tanner’s carved spectacles; the hornrims are a costume detail, but the carved spectacles lead to a revelation of common humanity. In the title story Miss O’Connor emphasizes the unmoored eye of Julian’s dying mother; she had...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 147-150)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-166)
  13. Index
    (pp. 167-175)