Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia. She
was the only child of Edward F. O'Connor and Regina Cline O’Connor.
Her father was diagnosed with lupus in 1937; he died on February
1, 1941; a disease which was genetically endowed in the O'Connor
family. Flannery was devastated, and almost never spoke of him
in later years.
described herself as a "pigeon-toed only child with a receding
chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you complex."
As a child she was in the local newspapers when she taught a chicken
that she owned to walk backwards. She said, "That was the
most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It's all been downhill
attended the Peabody Laboratory School, from which she graduated
in 1942. She entered Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia
College & State University), where she majored in English
and Sociology (the latter a perspective she satirized effectively
in novels such as The Violent Bear It Away). In 1946 Flannery
O'Connor was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop.
1949 O'Connor met and eventually accepted an invitation to stay
with Robert Fitzgerald (translator of Greek epic plays and poems,
including Oedipus Rex and both the Odyssey and the Iliad) and
his wife, Sally, in rural Connecticut.
1951 she was diagnosed with lupus, and subsequently returned to
her ancestral farm (see Andalusia) in Milledgeville. There she
raised and nurtured some 100 peafowl. Fascinated by birds of all
kinds, she raised ducks, hens, geese, and any sort of exotic bird
she could obtain, as well as incorporated images of peacocks often
in her books. She describes her peacocks in one essay.
her sheltered life, her writing reveals an uncanny grasp of the
nuances of human behavior. She was a deeply devoted Catholic living
in the mostly Protestant American South.
died on August 3, 1964, aged 39, of complications from lupus at
Baldwin County Hospital and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia.
An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two
novels and 31 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and
commentaries. She was a Southern writer in the vein of William
Faulkner, often writing in a Southern Gothic style and relying
heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. Her texts
often take place in the South and revolve around morally flawed
characters, while the issue of race looms in the background. A
trademark of hers is subtle foreshadowing, forcing the reader
to glaze over the red flags she places in her stories. Finally,
she brands each work with a disturbing and ironic conclusion.
two novels were Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away
(1960). She also published two books of short stories: A Good
Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955) and Everything That
Rises Must Converge, published posthumously in 1965.
life-long Roman Catholic, her writing is deeply informed by the
sacramental, and by the Thomist notion that the created world
is charged with God. The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction,
named in honor of O'Connor, is a prize given annually to an outstanding
collection of short stories.
was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion,
though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true."
preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else's.
But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that
there's no truth."