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O'Connor, A Temple of the Holy Ghost: The best way to go

O'Connor, '''A Temple of the Holy Ghost'' -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

She began to prepare her martyrdom ... She rehearsed this several times, returning each time at the entrance of Paradise to the lions. (90)

It seems to me that the child is more concerned with dying a glorious death than she is with reaching Heaven, which reflects her misguided religious principles rather well.


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Excellent analysis, Matt, and a great connection to "Bernice Bobs Her Hair."

I agree, the girl does seem to place herself above those around her, and she seems to believe she has all the answers; I think the metaphor about standing on a hill is rather appropriate here.

When you think about it, even the other children in the story are sort of standing on their own hills, too. They may not be as intelligent as the girl, but they still believe they are the smartest. The two girls, for instance, believe that their implied experience with boys and their knowledge of another language (is that Latin?) places them above the girl. The two boys, on the other hand, seem to believe they have a special, personal understanding of and relationship to God, above and beyond the girls that irritate them.

This passage was strangely confusing, but the girl was considering what her life occupation might be and decided she’d like to be a saint because “that was the occupation that included everything you could know” (89). Yet she decides she can’t be a saint because she was born a liar (idea of original sin?) and she sassed her mom and was ugly to everyone else. Even the servant in the house questions her about this (88).

But she seems to consider sainthood and martyrdom (a person put to death for refusing to renounce his/her convictions). This part of the story seems to contain references to Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Daniel, a Jew captive in the then Babylonian-controlled Holy Land, was prized for his ability to interpret dreams. Babylonian religious leaders became jealous and persuaded the Babylonian emperor to ban prayer to God. Daniel refused and was placed in a den of lions. However, Daniel, as the story goes, prayed to God who prevented the lions from devouring Daniel and he was released the next day. The emperor was so impressed the ban was lifted.

A similar story of martyrdom concerns Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who would not pray to a newly-built Babylonian idol, as that action would have constituted idolatry on their part. The emperor cast them into a furnace what would have consumed anyone else, except that God is to have spared them. Once they were released, they prospered from the example of their faith.

So the 12-year-old considers sainthood and martyrdom, since the image of the tents at the fair trigger this string of thoughts.

Remember that line in "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" that as a youth our convictions are a hill on which we stand, but become a cave in which we hide when we get older. Is it possible the girl is now standing on a hill? I also see as one of her convictions the belief that she is the smart one, surrounded by idiots.

I think the tent image is important later as the carnival freak reveals his malformation to the crowd gathered in the tent. It reminded me of a sort of Southern revival meeting.

Great point Chris. It seems to me that there is also a lack of seriousness when they even bring up religion in the first place. I find myself confused by this, because I ask "why would O' Connor actually turn on one of her biggest qualities?" She has used religion so well in all of her other stories, and now she seems to be heading backwards with this tale. 'Tis not right, methinks.

Great point, Lisa. She does seem to live in a mixed-up religious environment, considering the contrast between the religious attitudes of the two boys and the two girls who visit her home.

She may be misguided however I do feel that the girl is very intelligent. Yes she does talk about death but I don't think she had enough religious training to understand religion fully. If she did then she probably would have had a better understanding of relgion and if she is to follow the examples that she was surrounded by then I'm not sure she will ever fully understand what he believes and what she doesn't believe. I do not feel that she has been taught enough values to understand the value of religion.

I did not think of this. You are right. I think she realizes how smart she is which effects all of her realationships because she comes off as snotty. I think she wants to be remembered for something. What I do not know? She is a very complicated character though. Yet, O'connor doesn't let us forget that she is still merely a child by having the story refer to her as a child and with the scene about her not knowing how the bunnies were really born. This is how O'connor creates a sense of realism because none or her characters are perfect just like no human being is perfect. I love how she does this.

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