Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Flannery O'Connor's Stories Quotes and Analysis

"God made me this way and if you laugh He may strike you the same way. This is the way He wanted me to be and I ain't disputing His way. I'm showing you because I got to make the best of it I expect you to act like ladies and gentlemen. I never done it to myself nor had a thing to do with it but I'm making the best of it. I don't dispute hit."

The Hermaphrodite, "A Temple of the Holy Ghost," (245)

Susan and Joanne witness the show by the hermaphrodite at the fair, and later tell the child about it when they are all in bed. O'Connor herself suffered from lupus, a crippling disease that resulting in the loss of the use of her legs and eventually her death. This story demonstrates a sympathy for "freaks," as this hermaphrodite is called at the fair, and a respect for accepting the lot you are dealt in life. O'Connor wrote of the story in a letter, "As near as I get to saying what purity is in this story is saying that it is an acceptance of what God wills for us and acceptance of our individual circumstances."

He saw that no sin was too monstrous for him to claim as his own, and since God loved in proportion as He forgave, he felt ready at that instant to enter Paradise.

Mr. Head's revelation, "The Artificial Nigger" (270)

Mr. Head's revelation on the train ride home to the country suggests that he has immediately gained Grace, though throughout the story there are no hints as to the role that his Christian faith plays in his life. This type of sudden revelation is characteristic of 1950s symbolic prose in the style of James Joyce and Joseph Conrad. Thus it is fitting that the "artificial nigger" they see during their fight is an agent of Grace, allowing for their reconciliation: their shared confusion about black people in the city brings them together. The "artificial nigger" is the cause of a seemingly artificial realization of God.

"The devil you know is better than the devil you don't."

The Judge, "The Displaced Person"

Though the Judge is not alive at the time the story takes place, he is quoted by the characters as saying this phrase. They use it to imply that you cannot trust strangers, and it justifies their distrust of the Guizacs. Mrs. Shortley uses it in reference to her mistrust of both black people and Poles; she prefers the black workers because she has lived around them and realizes they are not a threat. Mrs. Shortley and Astor both use it to remind Mrs. McIntyre that they belond there more than the Guizacs do, since they are aware of the Judge's favorite sayings.

"This is not my boy. I never seen him before."

Mr. Head, "The Artificial Nigger," (265)

With these words, Mr. Head betrays Nelson for the first time. He has scared Nelson by pretending to abandon the boy while he sleeps on the sidewalk, Nelson has sprinted down the street and accidentally collided with a woman, possibly breaking her ankle. After Mr. Head betrays him by denying him, Nelson has to understand how to forgive for the first time. By forgiving his grandfather, he teaches Mr. Head an important lesson about God's Grace.

"The artist prays by creating."

Asbury Porter Fox, "The Enduring Chill," (376)

Asbury says this to Father Finn when the priest asks him to pray for his mother and Mary George, who do not pray themselves. Asbury has replaced God in his life with Art, which he worships to the point of destroying himself when he cannot create it as he hopes to. In one of his tormented dreams, he imagines his own death, and Art comes to take him away as God might to Heaven. Since he cannot create anything of worth, Asbury cannot be fulfilled in his religion of Art and wants to die.

"They should rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence."

Julian's mother, "Everything That Rises Must Converge," (408)

Julian's mother says this in a conversation with her son about racial integration. She believes that black people were better off as slaves, and she refuses to ride the bus alone because now black people can use the same buses. Her racism, rooted in fear but dressed as pity, leads to her downfall when she naively offers Carver a coin, inciting his mother to hit her.

"He thinks he's God. I'd rather be in the reformatory than in his house, I'd rather be in the pen! The Devil has him in his power. He don't know his left hand from his right, he dont have as much sense as his crazy kid!"

Rufus Johnson, "The Lame Shall Enter First," (480)

Rufus screams these words to the reporter when the police finally catch him breaking into a home. They have brought him to Sheppard's house to prove to Sheppard that they were right about him, and he makes these accusations about Sheppard. Sheppard does, in fact, fancy himself to be a Christ-like figure, capable of saving Rufus. But he doesn't have faith in God, and he neglects his own son.

"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!"

The Grandmother, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," (133)

After Bobby Lee and Hiram have murdered her whole family, The Grandmother says this to The Misfit in a moment of Grace. He has just explained why he has been unable to have faith in Jesus, and seeing him about to cry, she understands that he is a real person, not just someone of "good blood." She has mercy on him and forgives him for the deaths of her family, but when she reaches out to touch him, he immediately kills her.

"Lemme tell you something: There ain't any place in the world for a poor disabled friendless drifting man."

Lucynell Crater, the elder, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," (153)

The elder Lucynell Crater says this to Mr. Shiftlet in an attempt to try to convince him to marry her daughter and stay on their farm. He is missing an arm but works as a carpenter and has been fixing up her home. Rather than affecting him the way she hopes they will, these words instead seem to inspire Mr. Shiftlet to steal the automobile and leave: he tells her that regardless of where the body is, the spirit "is like an automobile: always on the move, always..." But the words also refer to one of the most common themes in O'Connor's stories: disabled protagonists. These "ugly words" strike a chord in Mr. Shiftlet because they call attention to his disability as one of the reasons he is an outcast.

"You count now. You didn't even count before."

Bevel the preacher, "The River," (168)

These are the words the preacher says to Harry after he has been baptized in the river. Later that night, Harry recounts them to his intoxicated mother as she leans over him before he goes to sleep. He does not feel like he "counts" in the apartment where he lives and has been raised; his parents usually ignore him and have not raised him as a Christian. For this reason, he misinterprets the preacher's words about the river leading to the Kingdom of Christ, and purposefully drowns himself to get there.