Stories by Flannery O’Connor Essay
Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor’s two narratives, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Good Country People,” are different stories presenting different characters, different plots, and different themes; however, both stories revolve around a mother and her child and their relationship. “Everything That Rises Must Converge” concerns Julian and his mother, and “Good Country People” concerns Hulga and her mother. As the two stories unfold, the similarities between Julian and Hulga, two seemingly different individuals, become apparent. The two, who appears unlike at first, turn out to have characteristics similar to one another. Both Julian and Hulga exhibit an educated and a proud character. They both use other people to validate their beliefs, and they both face a situation where they learn a lesson that they have to recognize for themselves.
At the beginning of each story, O’Connor presents each character as learned, conceited, and self-righteous. Julian has just graduated from college, which is a big achievement, considering that her mother did it all by herself. Julian is an aspiring writer who, for now, sells typewriters and lives with his mother. He thinks of himself as very intelligent. In fact, he often draws himself “into the inner compartment of his mind . . . the only place where he [feels] free of the general idiocy of his fellows.” In the same way, Hulga is a 32-year old woman who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and currently lives with her mother. She, like Julian, also thinks of herself as superior to others. She thinks that if she only can, “[s]he would be in a university lecturing to people who know what she [is] talking about. She also thinks to herself, “[A] true genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind.” The two characters think too highly of themselves that they belittle other people, even their mothers who support them until now.
In the course of each story, Julian and Hulga both use other people to prove to themselves and to others their beliefs. Julian uses black people to prove to his mother that the society has changed. He tries to make friends with black people not because he likes them and sees them as coequals, but because he wants to irritate his mother and to show everyone that he is not narrow-minded like most white people are. Likewise, Hulga tries to seduce Manley Pointer into withdrawing his faith and into believing that there is no God. She wishes to teach him “the deeper meaning of life.” She imagines “that she [takes] his remorse in hand and change[s] it into a deeper understanding of life.” Hulga wants to convert Manley. Julian and Hulga both wish to change others into accepting what they believe are true and correct.
As each story concludes, the two characters face messages whose meanings they have to make use of. Right after the confrontation of Julian’s mother with the black woman, Julian’s mother collapses unexpectedly and dies while Julian knowingly lectures her. Julian says to his mother, “From now on you’ve got to live a new world and face a few realities for a change. Buck up, it won’t kill you.” Then the mother falls to the pavement. Now, the mother that Julian despised before is gone, and he is left in a “world of guilt and sorrow.” Similarly, Hulga loses her wooden leg over a mediocre “country boy.” In irritation, Hulga says to Manley, “You’re a fine Christian! You’re just like them all–say one thing and do another.” Manley simply says before leaving, “[Y]ou ain’t so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!” Now, Hulga is left legless, helpless, and Godless. Both Julian and Hulga try to change other people when it is them who need to change.
Julian and Hulga are both learned and proud. They both use other people for personal validation, and they both face lessons, which they have to figure out for themselves. O’Connor characterizes Julian and Hulga in a way that they seem odd and far from what most people are, but as the characters evolve, they turn out to be ordinary people in all walks of life. They turn out to be where most people are–living in a delusion that their way is better than the way of the others.