Flannery O’Connor on Freaks (FOC pt III)

Three more quotes, all of which can be found in her excellent, excellent essay collection […]

David Zahl / 5.11.10

Three more quotes, all of which can be found in her excellent, excellent essay collection “Mystery And Manners”. For the other two installments, go here and then here

“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.” – from her essay “The Grotesque In Southern Fiction”

“A sense of loss is natural to us, and it is only in these centuries when we are afflicted with the doctrine of the perfectibility of human nature by its own efforts that the vision of the freak in fiction is so disturbing. The freak in modern fiction is usually disturbing to us because he keeps us from forgetting that we share his state.” – from her essay “The Teaching of Literature”

 And thirdly, one of her greatest hits, and something to which I think it’s safe to say that Mockingbird clings, from her essay “Novelist and Believer”:

“Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe. One reason a great deal of our contemporary fiction is humorless is because so many of these writers are relativists and have to be continually justifying the actions of their characters on a sliding scale of values.”