March 28, 2006
Middle aged Girl Scout
"... Sally Pker looked down at her feet and discovered that in the excitement of getting ready she had forgotten to change her shoes: two brown Girl Scout oxfords protruded from the bottom of her dress."
Then she chooses her nephew the Boy Scout to do the same duty she had done. An archetypal reading of this excerpt might see this as a reference to the encroachment of death. Sally likes how the old and the young look together when her nephew is on stage with her grandfather. Perhaps she forgot to change her shoes as a sign that she did not want to age any further than she already had.
To fold or not to fold
"...there ain't nothing you can do but fold your hands." "I do not fold my hands," Mrs. Cope said.
A psychoanalytic approach might explain that these women represent two oppposing parts of the psyche. Perhaps O'Connor herself felt torn between taking action against unpleasant events and allowing them to happen while she sat in misery.
March 26, 2006
response to O'Connor
"The work...is not fully created until readers make a transaction with it by assimilating it and actualizing it in the light of their own knowledge and experience."
This description of the reader-response approach seems to be a vital part of O'Connor's work. It often seems that her work requires the perception of the reader, since the characters themselves often fall short.
darkness to light
"The only dark spot in the room was Nelson's pallet, underneath the shadow of the window."
Mr. Head is described as wise and full of light at the start of the story and Nelson is in darkness. However, Nelson becomes the source of mercy for Mr. Head in the end and "even his face lightened" as he declared that he would not return to the city. Mr. Head acheived his goal, but gained much more himself.
March 22, 2006
"'You big dumb ox!' she shouted. 'You big dumb Church of God ox!' she roared and fell off the barrel..."
The child's angry outburst at the boys for calling the girls' singing "Jew singing" surprised me. It seems as if she is aligned with the girls in this scene, practically defending them where she had been so disgusted with them up to this point. Perhaps their common religion caused this alignment.
March 19, 2006
"two born dead, one died the first year and one run under like a dried yellow apple."
O'Connor provides ample reason for Ruby to be upset about being pregnant. She would surely fear having a child and becoming "deader", as her mother did with each of Ruby's siblings. As with her other stories, O'Connor's title could have several meanings. Is it Bill Hill's stroke of good fortune since he may have stopped his contraceptive technique on purpose? Ruby says clearly, "He would never slip up". So is he happy because he sees Ruby changing and knows his plan worked?
Or perhaps this is a stroke of good fortune for Ruby. Her trek up the steep stairs seems to symbolize her life thus far. She has made it out of Pitman and has avoided becoming a baby-making machine like her mother and sisters so far. She looks back "down into the dark hold" at the end of the story and is mocked by the echoes of her own voice saying "Good Fortune, Baby" which may be O'Connor's way of telling us that Ruby has not escaped her inevitable future at all.
March 14, 2006
"The central idea (paragraph 6)"
I found it interesting that the central idea was built up to and ended up all the way in the 6th paragraph. Rather than stating the idea and then supporting it, this essay showed a natural progression towards the main thought, which I found very effective.
"online catalogues can give you only what has been entered into them."
I am always painfully aware of how important it is to find the right keywords to search with to find what I am looking for. And even if I think I am right on, there may be entire journals out there that the library does not subscribe to that would hold something I could greatly use.
"Very quickly he stepped on the gas and with his stump sticking out the window he raced the galloping shower into Mobile."
The mother had no teeth, Lucynell was deaf and Mr. Shiftlet was missing part of his arm. If we are looking at O'Connor's work for the absence of good things, these deformities are certainly important for this story. Shiftlet says "he never would have been able to teach Lucynell to say a word if he hadn't cared and stopped long enough". This is certainly true, so what is it that he is lacking? Does he stop caring all of a sudden about Lucynell and then transfer his caring onto the hitchhiker boy? If so, then he remains a caring person, although a particularly fickle one.
March 09, 2006
""Listen," Bailey began, "we're in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is," and his voice cracked."
What is the predicament exactly? Bailey may be verbalizing his own inability to act as a man around his mother in addition to his realization that they were all going to be killed. He is helped up by Hiram "as if he were assisting an old man" and just before he enters the woods, he "turned and supported himself against a gray naked pine trunk". He calls to his mother and tells her to wait because he'll be back. Perhaps the gray naked pine trunk is his mother whom he has been leaning against all these years. He doesn't call to his wife, nor she to him.
River of symbols
The meaning of several symbols I found in the story remains unclear to me, but here is what I found interesting.
Bevel is chased by pigs twice in this story, once by the actual pig from the pen and at the end when Mr. Paradise resembles a pig chasing him in the river. Mrs. Connin points out that the pig from the pen "favors Mr. Paradise". Mrs. Connin also tells Bevel that Jesus drove "a crowd of pigs" out of a man.
Bevel's father "found her (Mrs. Connin) looming in it (the door), a speckled skeleton in a long pea-green coat and felt helmet." It sounds as if she is a warrior of some type with great stature to be able to wear a helmet and loom, but she is also presented as a skeleton with no protection or mass.
The line of Mrs. Connin, her children, and Bevel walking to the river looked like "a skeleton of an old boat with two pointed ends."
Some physical imbalances were also mentioned. Bevel has only one arm in his coat when his father is getting him ready to leave with Mrs. Connin. ""He ain't fixed right," a loud voice said from the hall." Later, Bevel's coat is hanging lower on one side because of the weight of the stolen book. "The damp plain coat dragged down on one side."
Mr. Paradise is said to have a missing ear.