Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Original Sin as Found in “The River” College

Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The River” tells the unfortunate story of a young boy named Harry who finds himself searching for meaning in his life. Due to the neglectfulness of his parents, he is left to figure out his own morals and beliefs on his own. He struggles to find meaning in the world until one day he meets a pastor who gives him the hopeful message he had been longing for. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin explains that all humans are born with a sinful nature and we must make a conscious effort to choose to not fall into a sinful path. By understanding Augustine’s doctrine, one can better understand the underlying principles that can be found in the story that would otherwise go unnoticed to the reader.

Original sin in the story is most evidently found in the Ashfields' household. The smell of dead cigarette butts, the emptiness of meaningless artwork, and the negative effects of alcohol plague their home with evidence of a sinful lifestyle. They are depicted as having fallen into the traps of several different sins because of their lack of religious beliefs. Their household represents the typical worldly, atheistic lifestyle that comes when people fail to realize their own total depravity and continue to...

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