March 14, 2011
Flannery O’Connor and Jonathan Swift: Masters of Irony
The adage says that “history repeats itself.” Criticisms of today’s society apply to societies that came centuries before. Satires from the 18th century criticize political events happening in the 20th Century. Many techniques of satire also transcend time. Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” which many accept as the first modern satire, is laden with irony. Irony is “the expression of meaning using language that normally expresses the opposite” (Brown 1417). Although Jonathan Swift and Flannery O’Connor lived and wrote in different time periods, they both criticized their societies using irony. Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 25, 1925. (Feeley 9) When O’Connor was just 16 her father was claimed by lupus (Feeley 9). O’Connor was very affected by her father’s death and lost faith in religion after his death. The most common object of criticism in O’Connor’s works is religion, which is deeply rooted in the death of her father. The young O’Connor could not understand how God could have allowed her father to die despite all her prayers and pleadings. She decided to turn away from Him as a result (Feeley 73). Most of Flannery O’Connor’s stories criticize religion. Good Country People, and A Good Man is Hard to Find criticize the self-righteous view that people have of the church have of themselves (O’Connor 84). Edward O’Connor’s death had another influence on Flannery’s works. Flannery O’Connor is not known for her happy and light-hearted stories. Death is always a central theme in O’Connor’s stories. But it is not simply present; death is explored and detailed in an uncommonly grotesque fashion (O’Connor 121).
The Southern Gothic Period is a period in American Literature that is classified by its grotesque imagery and Deep South setting. Race, Religion, and the Civil War are all topics of criticism for...