This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Flannery O'Connor and Mid-Century America




Grant, Virginia

Type of Degree





Though the fiction of Flannery O'Connor has most often been studied from theological or psychological perspectives, her work is deeply entrenched in, and reflective of, the culture of the mid-twentieth-century United States. This dissertation argues that O'Connor's work makes purposeful use of the cultural issues of the mid-twentieth century, particularly in regards to the Cold War, and that O'Connor's novels and short stories are small scale representations of larger national and global concerns. The first chapter examines a pivotal scene of O’Connor’s 1960 novel _The Violent Bear It Away_ and argues that O'Connor uses the stereotypical characterization of a homosexual man in order to feed on mid-century American homophobia. The second chapter explores the relationship between fear of integration in the American South and fear of Communism in O'Connor's short stories that focus on race. The third and final chapter focuses on the struggle between faith and reason in O'Connor's fiction and argues that these struggles depict a similar struggle between science and religion at mid-century. With a particular focus on the culture of the Cold War, these chapters elucidate the ways in which O'Connor's fiction encompasses and utilizes the concerns of mid-century Americans.