Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Conflicting Identity Schemas in Everything That Rises Must Converge

In "Everything that Rises must Converge" Flannery O' Connor compares the robustness of different methods of maintaining identity. The two identity schemas being compared are those of Julian, the highly individualistic, cerebral main character and his mother, a condescending Southern woman clinging to her fading social status. By focusing on the ongoing clash between these characters' style of self-identification O' Connor shows that they are mutually destructive to one another, but that Julian's is more robust because it is built on an internal self-concept rather than a need to reference external concepts like class and family history.

Julian's mother reveals her methods of assembling identity by constantly orienting herself relative to the culture and history around her, which she takes completely for granted. She blindly assumes the racial stereotypes that she thinks are appropriate to her perceived place in society, even going so far as to suggest that the old ways of slavery were a preferable state to the current racial realities. This shows that her identity is tied down to the culture of the "old South" and she is thus unable to respond appropriately to change in this culture. Her comments to Julian reflect her...

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