Title: Everything That Rises Must Converge.
Author: Flannery O'Connor.
Genre: Fiction, short stories, social criticism.
Publication Date: January, 1965.
Summary: A collection of 9 short stories that tell of the seers and sinners from the Bible Belt, respectable pillars of society, and authentic eccentrics driven by visions of hell and salvation. Everything that Rises Must Converge (1962) is a story of Julian, a recent college graduate and self-styled intellectual, who agrees to accompany his mother, whose worldview reflects the institutional racism of the mid-20th century American south, to an exercise session. His confrontational bitterness and her thoughtless prejudice bring the circumstances to a boil when they step onto the bus and join a widely disparate cast of characters, among them two black people who inhabit vastly different regions of the social spectrum. Greenleaf (1957) is about self-centered old woman who runs a ranch and is incapable of seeing the grace present in those she does not consider her social equals. A View of the Woods (1956) focuses on the relationship of a little girl and her grandfather, Mr Fortune, who despises his children and other grandchildren, but prefers her because he believes she is exactly like him, that mounts to tragedy in the end. The Enduring Chill (1958) is about a writer from New York who returns home to his mother's farm in the South after being diagnosed with and indulging in a serious illness he does not expect to recover from. In The Comforts of Home (1960), Thomas's mother insists on pitying and housing a girl who ends up in jail for passing bad checks and claims to have nymphomania, against his will and authority, with tragic results for the family. In The Lame Shall Enter First (1965), Sheppard is a recently widowed atheistic rationalist that gets his strongest validation from helping troubled youth. He is unsympathetic with the grief of his young son, Norton, and when he invites a religious but self-condemned juvenile delinquent into their home so he can "save" him, the consequences for his son and their family are catastrophic. Revelation (1965) is about Mrs. Turpin, a self-righteous woman who looks down on "niggers and white-trash" and gets a great sense of satisfaction in her own sense of propriety, until an encounter with a mentally unstable, angry young woman in a doctor's waiting room brings about a shocking revelation about hierarchy under God. Parker's Back (1965) is about O.E. Parker, a despondent and brooding man who lives a life of hedonism, getting a tattoo each time his despondency become over-powering, until he marries a religious, "saved" woman he's not sure he likes, and has a near-death experience that he takes as revelation that prompts him to get his most astounding tattoo yet. In Judgement Day, a land-owner in the South squatting with a black man in a shack towards the end of his life gets forced to move to New York with his daughter, and intends to escape and get back "home", until a miscalculation of what he's used to and a violent interaction with a coloured man in his daughter's apartment building interferes with his plans.
My rating: 7.5/10
My Review: Flannery O'Connor's language is superb, and she writes short fiction expertly and flawlessly. I find it partially sad, partially amusing that while O'Connor was a devout Catholic, and clearly wished to use her stories as a vehicle of expressing the importance of faith and God, I find her stories some of the most effective yet to highlight exactly how repellent and ugly religion can be.
♥ He never spoke of it without contempt or thought of it without longing. He had seen it once when he was a child before it had been sold. The double stairways had rotted and been torn down. Negroes were living in it. But it remained in his mind as his mother had known it. It appeared in his dreams regularly. He would stand on the wide porch, listening to the rustle of oak leaves, then wander through the high-ceilinged hall into the parlor that opened onto it and gaze at the worn rugs and faded draperies. It occurred to him that it was he, not she, who could have appreciated it. He preferred its threadbare elegance to anything he could name and it was because of it that all the neighborhoods they had lived in had been a torment to him - whereas she had hardly known the difference. She called her insensitivity "being adjustable."
♥ He could not forgive her that she had enjoyed the struggle and that she thought she had won.
What she meant when she said she had won was that she had brought him up successfully and had sent him to college and that he had turned out so well - good looking (her teeth had gone unfilled so that his could be straightened), intelligent (he realized he was too intelligent to be a success), and with a future ahead of him (there was of course no future ahead of him). She excused his gloominess on the grounds that he was still growing up and his radical ideas on his lack of practical experience. She said he didn't yet know a thing about "life," that he hadn't even entered the real world - when already he was as disenchanted with it as a man of fifty.
The further irony of all this was that in spite of her, he had turned out so well. In spite of going to only a third-rate college, he had, on his own initiative, come out with a first-rate education; in spite of growing up dominated by a small mind he had ended up with a large one; in spite of all her foolish views, he was free of prejudice and unafraid to face facts. Most miraculous of all, instead of being blinded by love for her as she was for him, he had cut himself emotionally free of her and could see her without complete objectivity. He was not dominated by his mother.
~~Everything That Rises Must Converge.
♥ She had managed after he died to get the two of them through college and beyond; but she had observed that the more education they got, the less they could do. Their father had gone to a one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade and he could do anything.
♥ "The artist prays by creating."
~~The Enduring Chill.
♥ Thomas loved his mother. He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery and he sensed about his forces, invisible currents entirely out of his control. She proceeded always from the tritest of considerations - it was the nice thing to do - into the most foolhardy engagements with the devil, whom, of course, she never recognized.
The devil for Thomas was only a manner of speaking, but it was a manner appropriate to the situations his mother got into. Had she been in any degree intellectual, he could have proved to her from early Christian history that no excess of virtue is justified, that a moderation of good produces likewise a moderation in evil, that if Antony of Egypt had stayed at home and attended to his sister, no devils would have plagued him.
♥ Thomas had inherited his father's reason without his ruthlessness and is mother's love of good without her tendency to pursue it. Hi plan for all practical action was to wait and see what developed.
♥ He needed nothing to tell him he was in the presence of the very stuff of corruption, but blameless corruption because there was no responsible faculty behind it. He was looking at the most unendurable form of innocence. Absently he asked himself what the attitude of God was to this, meaning if possible to adopt it.
~~The Comforts of Home.
♥ "He was in an alley," Sheppard said," and he had his hand in a garbage can. He was trying to get something to eat out of it." He paused to let this soak in. "He was hungry," he finished, and tried to pierce the child's conscience with his gaze.
The boy picked up the piece of chocolate cake and began to gnaw it from one corner.
"Norton," Sheppard said, "do you have any idea what it means to share?"
A flicker of attention. "Some of it's yours," Norton said.
"Some of it's his," Sheppard said heavily. It was hopeless. Almost any fault would have been preferable to selfishness - a violent temper, even a tendency to lie.
♥ His look was contemptuous but amused. There was a glint of challenge in his eyes. ... Where there was intelligence anything was possible.
♥ "I have nothing to reproach myself with," he began again. "I did more for him than I did for my own child." He heard his voice as if it were the voice of the accuser.
Slowly his face drained of color. It became almost grey beneath the white halo of his hair. The sentence echoed in his mind, each syllable like a dull blow. His mouth twisted and he closed his eye against the revelation. Norton's face rose before him, empty, forlorn, his left eye listing almost imperceptibly toward the outer rim as if it could not bear a full view of grief. His heart constructed with a repulsion for himself so clear and intense that he gasped for breath. He has stuffed his own emptiness with good works like a glutton. He had ignored his own child to feed his vision of himself.
~~The Lame Shall Enter First.
♥ Mrs. Turpin felt an awful pity for the girl, though she thought it was one thing to be ugly and another to act ugly.
♥ A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been to good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see bu their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hop pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.
♥ "Have you gone and got religion? Are you saved?" he asked in a mocking voice.
Parker's throat felt salty and dry. "Naw," he said, "I ain't got no use for none of that. A man can't save his self from whatever it is he don't deserve none of my sympathy."
♥ Parker sat for a long time on the ground in the alley behind the pool hall, examining his soul. He saw it as a spider web of facts and lies that was not at all important to him but which appeared to be necessary in spite of his opinion. The eyes that were now forever on his back were eyes to be obeyed. He was as certain of it as he had ever been of anything. Throughout his life, grumbling and sometimes cursing, often afraid, once in rapture, Parker had obeyed whatever instinct of this kind had come to him - in rapture when his spirit had lifted at the sight of the tattooed man at the fair, afraid when he had joined the navy, grumbling when he had married Sarah Ruth.