Social Commentary and Religion in Flannery O'Connor

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Analyze the way in which Flannery O’Connor fuses social commentary with a religious vision in at least two of her short stories

Social Commentary and religious vision are two of the most common and striking features of the work of Flannery O’Connor. I found both themes to be particularly evident in her short stories “The Artificial nigger” and “Revelation”. what I found particularly interesting about these stories with regard to the subject was how O’Connor had the two ideas intersect and relate to one another. Her descriptions of racism and social stereotyping are observed from a Christian point of view and some of O’Connor’s supposedly Christian and righteous characters are shown in a negative light due to their own opinions on social class.

The story “The Artificial Nigger” is, on the surface, concerned mainly with race and social commentary. However, reading it with O’Connor’s Christian faith in minds one sees countless religious references throughout it. Both Mr. Head and Nelson exude sinful pride from the beginning of the story and in my opinion the trip to Atlanta serves as a metaphorical road to redemption for both of them. O’Connor gives an obvious hint at this idea when describing Mr. Head: “He might have been Virgil summoned in the middle of the night to go to Dante” ( Stories 250), painting in the audiences’ mind the image of Dante’s epic tale of redemption.

This pride in Mr. Head manifests itself in racism. He feels superior to African Americans and tries to teach Nelson to do the same: “We didn’t come ( To Atlanta) to look at Niggers” (Stories 260). However it is subtly, yet repeatedly, exposed by O’Connor as false, sinful pride. This is most skilfully done in her description of the bedroom at the very beginning of the story. In Mr. Head’s mind the Moon “…Cast A Dignifying light on everything” (Stories 249) and his trousers hanging on a chair “…had an almost noble air” (Stories 249). But on closer observation there is little impressive...
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