The Central Mystery: Conversion Experiences in Selected Works of Flannery O’Connor
- Rebecca Kennison (see profile)
- LLC 20th- and 21st-Century American, TC Religion and Literature
- American literature
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- Arizona State University
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- Although Flannery O’Connor’s fiction has been subjected to criticism of all types and although she is known for her interest in religious matters, no one prior to this has done an in-depth study on the presentation of conversion in her fiction. With William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience as a basis for both definition and structure, O’Connor’s works were examined in the light of the conversion experience as it is broken down into three stages: a sense of sin, a state of exhaustion combined with a realization of the individual’s inability to change, and conversion itself. Conversion can be either sudden or gradual. Francis Marion Tarwater, the protagonist of O’Connor’s novel The Violent Bear It Away, is the prototypical convert, going through all three stages and experiencing both types of conversion. O’Connor cements her plot with pervasive symbolism, and both plot and symbolism combine to demonstrate her thesis that conversion — or at least the possibility of conversion — is included in every good story.
- This thesis submitted under the name Rebecca Ruth Psyhos.
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