Salt of the Earth

Topics: Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood, Southern Gothic Pages: 5 (1338 words) Published: June 16, 2013
Salt of the Earth

Flannery O'Connor's novels and stories are inhabited with unique and flawed characters who are the result of O’Connor's satiric worldly perspective. While they are sometimes humorous, these misfits are usually unpleasant. Critics have termed them "grotesque," but O'Connor has rejected this term because it suggests that the characters are too weird to belong in the real world. Instead, O'Connor insists that the South is inhabited by many such people. For every good or evil thing, there is an antagonist or opposing force. One of Flannery O’Connor’s most successful stories, “Good Country People”addresses themes of this “good versus evil,” the possibility of redemption achieved through an encounter with violence, and the foolishness of intellectual pretensions.

Born in Savannah, GA on March 25, 1925, Mary Flannery O’Connor was the only child of Edward, a real estate agent, and Regina. She was raised in a minority Irish-Catholic community within the larger Protestant South, and was taught by the strict Sisters of Mercy at St. Vincent’s Grammar School (“Flannery O'Connor”). At age five, she taught her pet chicken to walk backwards. This stunt attracted local newspaper attention and the event was documented on camera. The humorous short film was screened in many movie theaters across America in 1932 (“Biography”). Her first “book,” lovingly bound by her father, was “My Relatives,” a series of scathing satiric drawings and captions (“Flannery O'Connor”). Her highly protected childhood was shattered when her father developed lupus and died in 1941. In the fall of 1945, O’Connor enrolled in the journalism graduate school at the State University of Iowa to pursue a career as a political cartoonist. Within her first few weeks in Iowa City, she found her way to Paul Engle’s Writers’ Workshop, the first Master of Fine Arts program in the country, and switched her major (“Biography”). Discovering her vocation as a writer, both writing and drawing ambidextrously, she dropped “Mary” from her name; had her first story, “The Geranium,” published in Accent magazine; and received a Rinehart fellowship to work on a novel (“Flannery O'Connor”). In 1950, she was diagnosed, like her father, with lupus erythematosus. After many hospital stays, she recuperated at Andalusia, a 550-acre dairy farm outside Milledgeville run by her mother with hired labor. She took a room on the first floor of its former plantation house, as she was too weak to climb stairs. Each morning she worked on the galleys of “Wise Blood,’’ which was published in 1952. At the early age of 39, O'Connor lost her own battle to the autoimmune disease. She died on August 3, 1964. For her work,consisting of thirty-one short stories, and two novels, she received many honors, including an O. Henry Award in 1957 and the National Book Award in 1972 (“Biography”).

"Good Country People", centers on the injured Joy Hopewell, fitted with a wooden leg as the

result of a childhood accident. She has officially changed her name to Hulga to reflect the ugliness she

feels about life and to spite her mother. Hulga, who has a doctorate in philosophy and displays a dislike

for her mother's southern, Christian manners, lives as an aloof recluse on the family farm. One day she has

an encounter with a dis alarming Bible salesman named Manley Pointer, a countrified womanizer who is

attracted to this lonely thirty-two year old, in part because he senses an unspoken kinship between her

exotic beliefs and his own knavery (Bosco). Surprised by Hulga's declaration of her atheism, he reckons

that she is a woman who has thrown off the Bible-belt convictions of the South. They share a brief kiss on

a walk in the country, a walk that ends in a secluded loft in a barn. Once there, Manley Pointer continues

his romantic maneuvers and seems embarrassed when Hulga resists. He asks her to take off her artificial

leg to prove that she loves him,...
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