Andalusia Farm was the home of celebrated author Flannery O’Connor.
Flannery O’Connor was an American author, known mostly for her two novels ‘Wise Blood’ and ‘The Violent Bear It Away’, over thirty two short stories, collections such as ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories’, ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ and ‘The Complete Stories’, nonfiction works such as ‘Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose’ and journals among others. Flannery O’Connor became a celebrated Southern writer of her time. ‘The Complete Stories’ won the U.S. National Book Award for fiction in 1972, albeit the collection was compiled posthumously.
Early Life of Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor was born as Mary Flannery O’Connor on the 25th of March in 1925 at Savannah in Georgia. She died at a young age of thirty nine on the 3rd of August in 1964 at Milledgeville in Georgia. O’Connor was a novelist, essayist and short story writer. She wrote journals and letters. She had also conducted some noteworthy interviews. She was active for a period of twenty years from 1946 to 1964. She specialized the southern gothic genre and mostly wrote about Catholicism, morality, transcendence and grace. She became associated with the literary movement of Christian realism. ‘Wise Blood’, ‘The Violent Bear It Away’ and ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ remain her best known works till date.
O’Connor was the only child of real estate agent Edward Francis O’Connor and Regina Cline. Her family moved to the now famous Andalusia Farm at Milledgeville in Georgia when she was fifteen. Andalusia is presently a museum celebrated the life, works and legacy of Flannery O’Connor. Within a year of moving from Savannah to their new home, she lost her father to systemic lupus erythematosus. She continued to live at the new house with her mother.
O’Connor graduated from Peabody High School in 1942. She was the art director of the school newspaper. She pursued a three year graduation program in social sciences at Georgia State College for Women which is presently known as Georgia College & State University and completed it in 1945. She was known for her cartoon works published in the student newspaper of Georgia College. Within a year, she got an opportunity to participate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and later studied journalism at the University of Iowa.
It was at the university where she was introduced to writers and critics, the likes of Robert Penn Warren, Robie Macauley, John Crowe Ransom, Andrew Lytle and Austin Warren. It was Andrew Lytle who was impressed by her fiction and encouraged her to become a writer. Lytle went on to publish many stories written by her in Sewanee Review. The director of the workshop at the university, Paul Engle was among the first people to read the nascent drafts of what eventually became Wise Blood. O’Connor completed her master’s in 1947.
Career of Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor moved to New York for one summer when she was a part of a community of artists called Yaddo at Saratoga Springs. She continued to write Wise Blood but also finished many short stories during this summer. A year later, she was invited by Robert Fitzgerald and his wife to stay with them at Ridgefield in Connecticut. Robert Fitzgerald was an expert in translating the classics. O’Connor was a passionate writer. Although she had written only two novels, she did pen down dozens of short stories and most of the collections were compile during her lifetime. Many of her works have been published in other major anthologies. Wise Blood was adapted into a film. She could not finish a novel that had the working title ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage?’
The career of O’Connor has four distinct phases when her writing style, deftness, ambition and authority in the subjects she dealt in evolved and made her a prominent literary personality. Her post graduation writing was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James. Her early writing after post graduation was influenced by the likes of Jacques Maritain. She focused heavily on satires during this phase. The middle phase when A Good Man is Hard to Find was published was influenced by the likes of Friedrich von Hugel and she started to focus on mystical undercurrents. The mature phase of her writing career was influenced by Mary Anne Long and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. She expanded on the concept of grotesque.
Legacy of Flannery O’Connor
Her Southern writing style celebrating the sardonic Southern Gothic style with heavy reliance on regional elements including settings and characters that would appear to be grotesque to the northern readers earned her applause. She conceded that her inclination to put her characters into violent situations and their choices, actions and reactions would indeed appear to be grotesque to those unexposed to the southern life but she redefined the notion that grotesque is bad. She in fact reiterated a few times that grotesque is good and good is grotesque through her writings.
O’Connor had an almost unsentimental acceptance and rejection of various kinds of limitations, differences and imperfections of the characters she created. Her characters were often attributed to race, disability, religion, criminality, sanity and other social milieus that were subjected to heated debates in her time. These attributes served as conflicts and enriched the drama in her writing. O’Connor explored several moral and ethical questions. She reflected on her faith and upbringing as a Roman Catholic. She prized her characters that were morally flawed. The elements of race and disability feature prominently in most of her works, often as subjects, subplots or undercurrents.
O’Connor had many fans and critics during her lifetime. Her critics often described her writing as sarcastic, some defined her plots and characters as brutal and some even found her cynical but she objectively countered all such criticisms with facts that reality was not in any way less brutal or more sentimental than what her writings reflected. A critical assessment of her works would indeed find her to possess a sardonic sense of humor but she did facilitate realistic revelations through her writings. She did not accept or reject any notion at its face value. Like great writers throughout history, she explored ramifications and those often lead to intended or unintended humor or amusement, horror or shock but they are only a progression that is engrained in real possibilities.
O’Connor lived a secluded life. One would fail to gather how she had such an amazing grasp of various nuances of fellow humans and their behaviors. She delivered quite a few lectures on literature and faith. Her nonfiction prose is profound to say the least. Although she practiced liberalism most of her life, she did not lose the organic connect with her religion. O’Connor supported the movement lead by Martin Luther King Jr. and voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Early Death of Flannery O’Connor
O’Connor died from systemic lupus erythematosus, the same condition that caused the death of her father. She lived at Andalusia Farm till her death in 1964. She was diagnosed in 1952 and doctors had predicted she would live for only five years. She lived for seven more years. She did travel during the last years despite her failing health. She attended more than sixty lectures and other sessions after being diagnosed with lupus. O’Connor wrote over two dozen short stories and finished two novels during the twelve years she suffered and was on strong medication for lupus. Her house is now a museum and her resting place is in Memory Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville, Georgia.
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