Irish American writer Flannery O’Connor wrote the short story A Good Man is Hard to Find. She wrote two novels and thirty short stories. Thanks to her works, she entered the American literature as one of the most profound masters of Southern Gothic.
O’Connor graduated from high school in 1942. She entered Georgia State Women’s College and majored in English and sociology. She studied under an accelerated three-year program, received a bachelor’s degree in social sciences.
In college, she tried herself as a journalist, working as an editor of Corinthian, a student magazine. In 1946 she published her first story, Geranium. Its later revision, the short story Doomsday, was her last story written. O’Connor was admitted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Many prominent American writers of the mid and second half of the 20th century studied there. In particular, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Lowell, Philip Roth, and Michael Cunningham. The Seminar Leader, Paul Engle, was the first to read and comment on early drafts of Wise Blood. In 1947 she received her master’s degree and settled in Yaddo. It was an artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Her idols were not writers. They were Robert Fitzgerald, the translator from ancient Greek, and Robert Giroud, the editor. One of the few exceptions was the poet Robert Lowell. O’Connor considered her work to be in line with Nathaniel Gottorn. She admired Gogol’s prose and said more than once that he influenced her work.
Critics accused her that her work abounded in violence. She replied: “I realized that in my stories, the violence, oddly enough, brings my heroes back to reality.” Almost all of O’Connor’s heroes go through a short life journey as a test. They seek redemption but find it in death, or not even there. “Mercy changes a person, and this change is painful,” as O’Connor said.
American literary scholars evaluate O’Connor’s work as psychological realism. The reader sees, hears, and feels everything. They fail to notice the transition from reality into the world of biblical horror. Thomas Merton said after her death: “When I look for someone to compare Flannery to, I am not thinking of Hemingway, not of Catherine Anne Porter or Sartre, but rather Sophocles. I write her name with pride for that truth and the skill she described the fall and dishonor of man.” In 1983, the University of Georgia established the writer’s Short Story Literary Award.
She did not like Franz Kafka and suffered when her works were compared to his prose. O’Connor’s realism is fused with absurdity on the verge of insanity. Everyday incidents transform into epic events. There are many films based on her works. They are animated by religious pathos and colored with comic touches. Her zealous Catholicism and disbelief in science shake the fundamental principles of life.