Author: Flannery O'Connor
Genre: Southern Gothic fiction
Page Length: Not specified
"Everything That Rises Must Converge," written by Flannery O'Connor and published in 1965, is a Southern Gothic fiction that delves into the complexities of race, class, and societal changes in the South during the 1960s. The author uses her unique writing style to craft a series of interconnected stories, each depicting characters grappling with personal struggles and the shifting dynamics of their society. Through vivid characterization and thought-provoking themes, O'Connor offers a compelling exploration of human nature and the consequences of ignorance and prejudice.
Part I: The first section of the book introduces the main characters, Julian and his mother, as they prepare for their weekly bus ride. Julian, a recent college graduate, resents his mother's antiquated beliefs and her struggle to adapt to the changing world. On the bus, Julian witnesses a confrontation between his mother and an African-American woman, resulting in his mother being struck with a purse. Although Julian feels a mix of embarrassment and anger, he fears confronting the deep-seated racism in himself and his mother.
Part II: In the second section, Julian accompanies his mother to her weight-loss class where they encounter Carver, a young African-American man. Julian's mother, with her prejudiced mindset, offers Carver a penny and treats him condescendingly, causing Julian to become increasingly frustrated. After leaving the class, Julian encounters Carver again, who is then attacked by a group of white men. Unable to confront his internal struggles, Julian stands idly by, unwilling to intervene.
Part III: The third section takes place on a bus ride to the family's final destination. Julian's mother flaunts her new hat, oblivious to her surroundings. Julian, meanwhile, contemplates his ambivalent feelings towards his mother and his own hypocrisy. Eventually, Julian starts a conversation with an elderly African-American woman, attempting to assert his progressive views. However, his attempt backfires, and the woman criticizes Julian’s misguided perception of himself, reminding him of his underlying prejudices.
1. Racial tensions: Throughout the book, O'Connor highlights the deep-rooted racism prevalent in the American South. She explores how characters struggle to come to terms with changing racial dynamics and exposes the damaging effects of prejudice and isolation.
2. Identity and self-awareness: O'Connor emphasizes the characters' internal conflicts and their attempts to confront their own shortcomings. Julian, in particular, grapples with his conflicting beliefs, his resentment towards his mother, and his own inherent bias.
3. Social changes and generational clash: The author examines the clash between traditional Southern values and the evolving world of the 1960s. The narrative explores the tension between older generations holding onto outdated beliefs and younger generations seeking progress and societal integration.
Why it's important:
"Everything That Rises Must Converge" offers a thought-provoking examination of the racial and social issues prevalent in the American South during the 1960s. O'Connor's skilled storytelling and intricate character development shed light on the complexities of human nature and the consequences of unresolved prejudices. This book serves as a reminder that progress often comes with discomfort and the need for self-reflection. By exploring the themes of racial tensions, identity, and generational conflicts, O'Connor's work invites readers to critically examine their own biases and confront the limitations of their understanding. Through its timeless relevance, this novel remains a significant contribution to American literature.