PURGATIVE GRACE, ANAGOGICAL VISION, AND VIOLENCE AGAINST NIHILISM IN FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S FICTION
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DepartmentHood College Humanities
RightsBurton, Tara Isabella. Strange Rites. Public Affairs, 2020. From Strange Rites by Tara Isabella Burton, copyright © 2020. Reprinted by permission of PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Gooch, Brad. Flannery a Life of Flannery O’Connor. Little Brown and Company, 2009. From Flannery, by Brad Gooch, copyright © 2009. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. Harper Collins, 1996. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis © copyright 1940 CS Lewis Pte Ltd. Extract used with permission. Shinn, Thelma J. “Flannery O’Connor and the Violence of Grace.” Contemporary Literature. Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter, 1968), pp. 58-73. JSTOR 20 March 2020. by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Press. Wilson, Jessica, Hooten. Giving the Devil His Due Demonic Authority in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Cascade Books, 2017. wipfandstock.com used with permission. All other references used with permission granted from publishers.
Flannery O'Connor conveyed grace in her stories as a moment that struck hard against one's resistance to the divine. Her writing is not sentimental but has a realist's perspective. The anagogical is used to help interpret her stories, and it is a layering of meaning and seeing different levels of reality in one image. I explain what grace is in the perspective of Thomas Aquinas and Flannery O’Connor and continue with the idea of purgation as means of grace to turn from one direction to another. Grace is not an abstract concept, but a person, Christ, divine though he was according to Aquinas and O’Connor. Grace can also be seen as the uncreated energies of God, as the Orthodox term it, which enable a person to become more like Christ—Christ being the source and exemplification of grace. O’Connor says, “God became man partly in order to teach us [how to be a good person], but it is impossible to be one without the help of grace.” Grace in O’Connor’s work presents an opportunity for the person to choose or reject that grace presented. O’Connor shows us through her stories that people need assistance along the way in order to become someone different. Suffering that purgates the person is a means of awakening to the divine, but also to recognize the limitations of the ego and self-sufficiency of the person. Suffering in this life also gives a person an opportunity to be vulnerable to grace, but it is up to each person to either choose that opening to the divine or to reject. If the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of the dead is true (which Christianity claims), the redemption of the human person is related to the body, mind, and soul. Redemption is a reordering of our loves, in other words, if conversion is a series of turnings toward the good, then our ideas of who matters in this world changes.