Mary Flannery O’Connor is one of the most preeminent and more unique short story authors in American Literature (O’Connor 1). While growing up she lived in the Bible-belt South during the post World War II era of the United States. O’Connor was part of a strict Roman Catholic family, but she depicts her characters as Fundamentalist Protestants. Her characters are also severely spiritually or physically disturbed and have a tendancy to be violent, arrogant or overly stupid. (Garraty 582) She mixes in her works a full-fledged gothic eeriness with an authentic feeling for the powers of grace and redemption. O’Connor’s substantial literary reputation is based upon her two novels and her short stories collected in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955), and The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor. Despite the fact that her unique style of writing has caused many judgments and rumors about her, O’Connor has received many awards and honors throughout her entire life.
On March 25, 1925, Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia as a first and only child to a strict Roman Catholic couple. Her parents were Edward Francis O’Connor, a real estate broker, and Regina L. Cline O’Connor. (Garraty 581) Until 1938 O’Connor attended St. Vincent and Sacred Heart Parochial Schools. She was known as Mary in grade school but eventually dropped it and went by Flannery O’Connor. (Garraty 581) During grade school O’Connor claimed that her hobby was collecting rejection slips. Then the family moved to the Cline house in Milledgeville, Georgia when her father became sick with disseminated lupus. Lupus is a disease of the connective tissue, which would later claim her life. While in Milledgeville, O’Connor went to school at Peabody High School (Garraty 582). During high school she wrote and illustrated books while still maintaining a high academic average. Her father died of lupus in 1941. In 1942, at the age of 16, O’Connor entered Georgia State College for Women, which is now known as Georgia College. (O’Connor 2)
During college O’Connor majored in social sciences (O’Connor 2). She also drew cartoons and made illustrations for college paper and yearbook. O’Connor also edited the college literary magazine (Garraty 582). One of her professors started off her writing career by submitting some of her works to the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, because of this she was awarded a Rhinehart Fellowship. O’Connor graduated in 1945 with Bachelors Arts in English and social sciences. She published her first story ,” The Geranium” in the summer issue of Accent. Several stories and even portions of her first novel, Wise Blood were published between 1946 and 1952 in “Accent,” “Sewanee Review,” “Tomorrow,” “Mademoiselle,” “Partisan Review,” and “New World Writing.” (Garraty 582) Then she received a Master of Arts in Literature in 1947 she lived at the writers’ colony at Saratoga Springs for a short time. Then O’Connor lived in New York until she got sick in 1950 and moved back home, to Georgia. (Garraty 582)
When O’Connor returned to Georgia, her condition was diagnosed as disseminated lupus. She was admitted to Emory Hospital in Atlanta and remained there until she was discharged in the spring of 1951. O’Connor and her mother moved to “Andalusia..” Even during the years in Andalusia she regularly received honors and awards for her work. (Garraty 582) In 1954 o’s’ short story collection The Life You Save May be Your Own was selected for publication in O. Henry Prize Stories of 1954. Although her condition worsened she still corresponded widely and even traveled to lecture and give readings even though she was on crutches after 1955. In 1959 her condition stabilized and she and her mother traveled to Lourdes and Rome. In early 1964 a benign abdominal tumor was removed, but in the end all the operation succeeded in doing was speed up the development of her lupus. And after a long, painful illness, that had also claimed her father, she died on August 3, 1964 in Milledgeville. (Garraty 583)
During her life O’Connor was almost universally admired, but not fully understood author. She was an author who filled her stories with characters who are all deformed in some way. Some have labeled her an atheist because of her views on religion and for using grotesque examples. (O’Connor 3) It is true that she frequently criticized the materialism and spiritual apathy of contemporary society and it’s need for religious faith and redemption (O’Connor 2). In response to these accusations O’Connor simply said “To the hard of hearing you shout and to the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.” (O’Connor 2)
O’Connor was noted for her strangely touching stories about the life in the South. O’Connor had a fine ear for Georgia dialect and a merciless eye for the flamboyant aspects of modern life. In her work demented comedy and grotesque violence often mask a deeper seriousness of purpose and an abiding religious faith. O’Connor’s writing’s made people open their eyes to our way of life and beliefs. They may not have changed their ways but at least they thought about it. The world is more open and objective because of O’Connor’s moving stories.
Garraty, John A. “Mary Flannery O’Connor” Dictionary of American Biography: Supplement Seven. 1981 edition.
“O’Connor, Flannery.” DISCovering Authors Modules Online. Galenet; 30 March 1999.
Polk, Noel. “Flannery O’Connor.” The World Book encyclopedia. Fourteenth edition. 1992.