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In writing many authors have different techniques or styles in which they use in order to reveal their themes. These vehicles are what give fiction its ability to relate to people and life in general. By using setting, irony, and characterization in her short fiction Flannery OConnor reveals a theme of a both cynical and sinister universe in which death is imminent and impartial. She specializes in using artistic representation of human character or motives to accentuate this morbid theme. In her three short stories Everything That Rises Must Converge Good Country People and A Good Man Is Hard to Find OConnor reinforces this predominant theme.
In order to display her themes, OConnor uses setting as one of her main tools. In all of her stories she has particular settings that drastically influence the outcomes of each scenario. In Good Country People OConnor uses a country backdrop in order to accurately depict the attitude derived from an area of this nature. Early in the story, Mrs. Hopewell has a blurred deception of country people, she is unable to filter through her own biases. This is proved when the bible salesman comes to her door, and she welcomes him entirely because he says that he is a country boy.
Im real simple. I dont know how to say a thing but to say it. Im a country boy. Because of these statements he is able to manipulate his way into Mrs.
Hopewell's family. The setting is crucial in this particular case because if this scene does not occur on countryside the salesman is much less likely to manipulate a family. The setting allows OConnor to display an all trusting country attitude, which in turn results in a death of Mrs. Hopewell's beliefs. Setting also plays a large role in her other two stories.
In A Good Man is Hard to Find the setting is crucial because the family would most likely never have been killed if the car accident had occurred in a place similar to a city with lots of people in the area. The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months because of the situation taking place on a back road in a small southern town, the setting enabled the killings to take place. These brutal killings are a distinct look into Oconnor's theme of death. In her other story Every That Rises Must Converge, OConnor uses a setting in which the time period effects the entire outcome of the story. She chooses a time period in which racial issues were much more present then they are today.
These issues result in an argument between Julian and his mother in which she gets very upset. As she gets more and more upset her heart rate increases and she eventually suffers a heart attack as a result of the argument. A tide of darkness seemed to be sweeping her from him Crumpling she fell to the pavement. OConnor uses the setting to produce the argument, which in turn causes death.
OConnor not only uses setting to convey her theme, but also irony as well. OConnor uses irony as a vehicle to portray her ultimate theme of death. She manages to engage in both verbal and circumstantial irony in her short stories. In her story Good Country People she shows a distinct use of verbal irony, which inevitably conveys a death in the beliefs of Mrs. Hopewell. Good country people are the salt of the earth...
Why I think there arent enough good country people in the world! OConnor shows through one of the main characters (Mrs. Hopewell), that she has a firm belief in country people. This blind faith in country people is soon put to shame when she allows a corrupt bible salesman to advantage of her family.
The bible salesman proves Mrs. Hopewell wrong when he takes advantage of her daughter, I hope you dont think that I believe in that crap! I may sell bibles but I know which end is up and wasnt born yesterday an I know where Im going. Mrs. Hopewell's ideals and statements are completely overthrown by the actions of this man who easily cons her into trusting him. OConnor displays a sinister attitude on the part of the bible salesman, in which directly results in the eventual death of Mrs.
Hopewell's beliefs in country people. Another example of Oconnor's use of irony can be seen in the story A Good Man is Hard to Find. OConnor conveys circumstantial irony in this story as opposed to the verbal irony used in Good Country People. In this story, OConnor portrays several ironic scenarios. The first can be seen when the grandmother is reading the paper and sees an article about an escaped killer.
Here is a fellow that calls himself The Misfit is almost from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida This situation is ironic in that the grandmother reads about a killer that is loose in Florida, and then the family decides to go on vacation in Florida. Then the story becomes even more ironic when the family's car breaks down and the same killer that was in the paper appears. Youre the Misfit! she said. I recognize you at once!
Yes, the man said smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadnt of reckernized me. By the appearance of the killer and the act of the actual killings, OConnor shows through her use of irony a lingering theme of death in each story. Each death of some type can directly be related to an ironic scenario that has occurred. But this irony would not be possible without the use of Oconnor's characterization. Another device that is prominent in Oconnor's writing is her use of characterization. By displaying different character traits she is able to connect her overall theme of death with her writings.
In all three stories she uses a mother figure. Each mother character has different trait in which ultimately leads to a death in one form or another. In Good Country people Mrs. Hopewell is very set in her ways and nave to the world in some respect. She shows this by simply allowing a man into her home purely based off of the fact he claims to be a country boy.
You dont see any more real honest people unless you go way out in the country by having these types of blind views she allows this corrupt man to take advantage of both her and her family. These views are quickly killed by the actions of this strange man. Also in Everything That Rises Must Converge, OConnor shows a mother who is stubborn in her ways. This stubbornness is what eventually leads to her death.
Lets wait on the bus, he said. Home, she said thickly. I hate to see you behave like this, he said. Just like a child.
I should be able to expect more from you. In this argument with her son, she displays her stubborn attitude. Right after this moment she then suffers the consequences of her stubbornness by eventually succumbing to death. In both stories death has occurred because of these traits.
In one story it is the death of a belief and in another story it is the actual physical death of a person. In both cases OConnor uses characterization as a vehicle in which to introduce her theme of death. OConnor also shows death through a brutal killing in her story A Good Man is Hard to Find. In this story the grandmother leads her family blindly down a road and is too stubborn to admit that she is lost. Its not much farther, the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her.
The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated this feeling that she has is embarrassment because she knows she is wrong. The grandmother by not telling the truth in turn gets her entire family killed. OConnor again shows death as a result of stubbornness. Overall OConnor uses three main vehicles in which to convey her theme of death (setting, irony, and characterization). Each one of these aspects is critical to the formation of the stories in which she writes. Without one her theme may be lost within her writings.
In all three stories a death of some kind takes place in one story a belief is killed and in the other two stories two people are physically killed. OConnor is very clear in displaying her theme of death throughout each story. Death is something that is imminent and impartial, it is inescapable. No matter what a person does death will ultimately occur. OConnor by showing so many instant ences of death indirectly shows the reader how fragile life truly is, and that it cannot be taken for granted. Knowing this every person should try to live as well as he or she can because death could occur at any moment.
A great man once said All men die, but not all men truly live. This is a theme that could help anyone in his or her life.
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