Publication Year

1985

Keywords

Literature, fiction, Flannery O'Connor, hero, myth, culture

Disciplines

Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Fiction

Abstract

In the course of preparing this paper, certain questions relating to the nature of myth and of Flannery O'Connor's fiction proved inaccessible within the means and restrictions of forty pages. This is not to say that such questions are not important or are unrelated to the subject at hand. The area of myth, embracing as it does several disciplines of human endeavor, is difficult to condense in such a way as to reflect its many facets. In my introduction, I deal most explicitly with myth as the precursor and informer of literature. Even here, the discussion is narrowed in order to center upon the heroic pattern specifically. Certain wider aspects of myth, the anthropological, the culture-historical, are necessarily sidelights to this important main topic. The psychological and spiritual aspects of myth, both of which are congenital to the mythological interpretation of literature, are discussed briefly, and some common ground between them is sought. The specific explication of the hero-quest as it is found in traditional myth is due almost entirely to the work of Joseph Campbell, as presented in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The interpretations in this book are based upon a comprehensive gathering of myths world-wide, it must be noted that the relationship of O'Connor's distinct Christian viewpoint with the spiritual concerns of myth in general is, for the most part, left untouched. O'Connor's fiction does draw the apprehension of a greater spiritual reality than the physical. It is the depiction of that reality that often alienates readers, yet I think that myth, viewed in its full dimensions, reflects the same outlook. Thus, I generally equate O'Connor's implicit or explicit Christian content with the wide truths of myth in general. To consider O'Connor's work essentially dogmatic would be an intentional fallacy which is naturally reductive and unfair to the complexities of her works. Some attempt has been made to translate the terms of myth into the terms of her Christian outlook. This is done with the notion that this translation is possible without serious difficulties. That the tenets of Christianity are communicated through mythic structures, it seems to me, says nothing more than that myth serves as medium as well as message, and that the message, such that it is, is broad and fundamental enough to embrace the various schemata of all religions.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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