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Symbols in “Greenleaf” Story by Flannery O’Connor Essay

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Updated: Sep 4th, 2022

To start with, Flannery O’Connor was an American novelist and story writer born in the 1925 year. In 1965, she published the book, consisting of several short stories, called “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” This book involves a piece of literature called “Greenleaf,” describing the story of Mrs. May, who experiences a conflict concerning social class struggle with Mr. Greenleaf, her employee, and two of his sons.

At the beginning of the “Greenleaf” short story, Mrs. May has a dream where a bull destroys her life and the lives of her two unmarried sons. Interestingly enough, opposite to Mr. Greenleaf’s children, Mrs. May’s sons are not interested in farming, which their mother owns. Thus, children here can be considered a symbol: successful sons represent the happiness of Mr. Greenleaf’s life, while unwillingness to work and marry Mrs. May’s sons stands for the meaningless of her own life.

Moreover, the crucial symbol in this story is a bull because he appears not only in the dream but also on the actual farm of Mrs. May. It turned out that Mr. Greenleaf’s sons are the owner of the bull that scares Mrs. May. When she realizes who is the owner of the scaring animal, she insists that Mr. Greanleaf should put the bull away from her farm or shoot it.

At the end of the story, Mrs. May appears to be killed by this bull, which is ironic because it happens when the animal itself should be killed. Interestingly enough, the wife of Mr. Greenleaf was represented as a very religious woman who always prayed for Jesus attacking her heart to be pure from any sins. That is why, when Mrs. May becomes killed by the bull’s horns, one can see the animal as the symbol representing Jesus.

To conclude, different symbols can be seen in Flannery O’Connor’s “Greenleaf” short story. Moreover, such symbolism opposes Mr. Greenleaf’s life to Mrs. May’s one, which raises the topic of social class struggle. The final scene, where the bull’s horns are killing the story’s main character as it was in her dream, stands for the idea of Jesus attacking the heart of Mr. Greenleaf’s very religious wife.

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IvyPanda. "Symbols in “Greenleaf” Story by Flannery O’Connor." September 4, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/symbols-in-greenleaf-story-by-flannery-oconnor/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Symbols in “Greenleaf” Story by Flannery O’Connor." September 4, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/symbols-in-greenleaf-story-by-flannery-oconnor/.

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