Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series.
Flannery O’Connor has always been an author whose writings have intrigued me. I first learned of her in an American Literature class in college. One of the volumes of the colossal Norton Anthology of American Literature had one or two of her stories anthologized. O’Connor, the introductions stated, was a gifted female Southern Catholic writer who died at a young age. I tried to stifle myself from yawning—not exactly the type of write that piqued my interest. I was assigned the short story, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” I thought it would be the usual run-of-the-mill short-story—you know, the kind that ambles off into nothingness while at the same time trying to make a “statement.” I was wrong.
Flannery O’Connor has the unique ability to take you through what seems to be an innocent enough story, and then proceed to violently pull the rug out from under the reader to reveal the sometimes hard-to-face things that lie beneath the surface. For those who thought that Southerners lacked the ability to stimulate thought, read Flannery O’Connor. Her stories can leave the reader reeling and shocked at the end. So it was with this week’s Book That Haunts: The Violent Bear It Away.
The Violent Bear It Away is one of O’Connor’s few novels’the title a reference to Matthew 11:12. The story involves a boy, the orphan Francis Marion Tarwater, who leaves his backwoods home after his uncle, a bizarre self-proclaimed prophet, dies. Tarwater’s uncle has prophesied that the boy too will become a prophet.
Tarwater flees the swampy backwoods, attempting also to flee the effect of his uncle’s prophecy. He goes to the city where his cousin Rayber, a modern-minded schoolteacher, attempts to de-program the religious worldview that Tarwater has grown up learning.
O’Connor presents us with a clash of worldviews that ultimately leads to climax that will leave the reader with at least one sleepless night trying to put the pieces back together. I finished this novel about two months ago and the shock still hasn’t departed. I’d love to discuss it with somebody. So read it.