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Parker’s Back by Flannery O’Conner Essay

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Updated: Sep 24th, 2021

Parker’s Back written by Flannery O’Conner is considered to be a prominent short story disclosing the combination of religious and private aspects of characters’ life. This story is rather symbolic; the author contributed her soul and great experience in this novel writing it during the last days of her life. This short story is regarded to be one of the most profound works of the author touching spiritual theme and religious aspects.

The central theme of the story is the reflection of the biblical features on the characters’ actions and morality. The author managed to show how indifference to the religion can turn into deep belief in God. Parker, the protagonist of the story, depicts the features of the biblical concepts burning the tree and the tractor. It is a symbolic reflection of the Moses behavior. The tractor crash faced by the character resulted in the lost of the job. During the whole story the author underlined the fact that private life and religious side of the characters contradicted each other. Parker takes a great interest in his tattoos and only his back was free from it.

The author stresses that Parker’s wife was a religious woman who cannot understand the behavior of her husband and his way of life. The analysis of the main characters of Parker’s Back proves that the members of the family described by the author are completely different in moral values and life vision. It is important to stress that the characters understand this fact and try to find something important in their relations which can keep them together.

The readers have an opportunity to be involved into the religious side of Parker’s family life watching the biblical manners of his wife. To make the story more involved into the basic idea the author used a number of quotations from Old Testament used by Sarah. It leads to the contradictions of two different traits of character of Parker and his wife. Religious wife and anti-religious mood of the husband, who mocks Sarah’s belief being apart from the family, underline the contradiction of different aspects of life. The author showed the gradual change of Parker who tries to resist the existence of God but changes his view on this aspect learning a lot from his life experience. God Above! (O’Conner, 381)

This statement was the only reply of Parker to the accident he faces. The depiction of the Christ on Parker’s back is the brought confusion and interaction of views to the family. “All the demanding eyes” of the tattooed Christ is above Sarah’s understanding of the religion.

From the point of view of literal presentation the author managed to use a great variety of expressive means and stylistic devices. The metaphorical illustration of Christ who is depicted as a Man and God can be observed during the whole story. The novel abounds in imagery and images: thus, the case of Parker’s looking for a perfect biblical design of tattoo for his back or the case connected with the reaction of Sarah to the tattooed Christ of her husband.

The usage of the great amount of images makes the story more emotional and impressive. The depiction of the imaginary by the author transfers the reader into the atmosphere of biblical rules and customs. The main symbol of the story is a tattooed Christ which dominates among all others producing a profound effect on the reader. It shows the features of Christianity illustrating Sarah’s perception of the reality.

“…the word itself, of which our works are fashioned, is the first art form, oldest than the roughest shaping of clay or stone” (O’Conner, 381)

One more important aspect of the story is considered to be Sarah’s deep knowledge of the bible, the meaning of the word for her and the vision of the Christ’s role are considered to be the main characteristics of the novel idea.

Parker’s Back is abundant in associated and unassociated epithets which make the novel more expressive and alive.

Demanding eyes, idolatrous churches, burning eyes, etc. (O’Conner, 381)

The author wanted to stress the symbolism of the story by illustrating Christ in two images: as a Man and as God. Flannery O’Connor strived to show the transference of the materialistic world into the spiritual one. The contradictions of the Good and Evil are considered to stress the role of the man in the biblical world. The author managed to show how Parker was to face all the spiritual features of the reality in his habitual life. Strong religious point of view makes the story of the author stand out of all others.

He doesn’t look”, Sarah Ruth said. “He is a spirit. No man shall see his face” (O’Conner, pg. 381)

Literal approaches used by the author are usually aimed at the biblical aspect highlighting the interrelations of the spiritual world with the materialistic one. The author managed to show the role and place of Christ in people’s hearts. To tell the truth, such themes are characteristic for O’Conner’s stories because all her novels are directed to the promotion of religious ideas taking the great part of her soul.

How are the Jesus Christ’s fate and his role in our life reflected in the novel? The author tried to show it with the help of symbols and a number of imaginary. For example, when Parker is belted being senseless, one can see that tattooed Christ on the Parker’s back is belted as well; it proves that he has to suffer for the fate of the man, though only symbolically. The man for whom Christ was to suffer is not aware of idolatry and mocked religion until the case.

The author wanted to stress the fact that one can really see and found God through the real faith and frank attitude to the religion. The example of Sarah’s belief and Parker’s mocking attitude to the role of God in the life of the society stressed the fact that contradictions of such type can be observed in many modern families who tries to fight for their interests and morality development. The role of such novels in modern literature is really great because they contribute to the development of inner qualities of many people and prove the significant place of the religion in our every day life.

As it was shown in the analysis of the Parker’s Back written by O’Conner, the novel is rather impulsive and emotionally colored. The author managed to use a great variety of literal expressive means to make the story close to real life. The novel discloses the biblical theme and that is why it depicts a lot of moments close to religious events and images. The symbol of Christ, to be more exact, tattooed Christ, is used by the author in order to show interactions between the material and spiritual world we live in. The novel under analysis is the illustration of the biblical atmosphere in the real world of the cruelty and evil.

The religion managed to fight indifference and proved the reality of God existence for Parker; his support to people’s life appeared to be vivid due to the symbolism of the novel and great attention to the religious aspect of social life.


O’Conner, “Flannery. Parker’s Back.” 2007. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 10th Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia pg. 381-94.

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