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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
O'Connor, Mary Flannery (1925-1964)
"I'm going to preach there was no Fall because there was nothing to fall from, and no Redemption because there was no Fall, and no Judgment because there wasn't the first two. Nothing matters but that Jesus was a liar."

Mary Flannery O'Connor


Background
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.

Flannery 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 from there."

O'Connor 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Despite 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.

She died on August 3, 1964, aged 39, of complications from lupus at Baldwin County Hospital and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Career
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.

Her 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.

A 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.

Quotations

"She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true."

"I 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."

 
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