An Unconventional Birth of Ideas

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"She opened her eyes and gazed down into the dark hole, down to the very bottom where she had started up so long ago.  'Good Fortune,' she said in a hollow voice that echoed along all the levels of the cavern, 'Baby.'

      'Good Fortune, Baby,' the three echoes leered.

      Then she recognized the feeling again, a little roll.  It was as if it were not in her stomach.  It was as if it were out nowhere in nothing, out nowhere, resting and waiting, with plenty of time."

-From Flannery O'Connor's "A Stroke of Good Fortune," page 79


I don't know if I am looking at this from the wrong perspective because I don't normally think this way, but I believe that in this segment, O'Connor is trying to create the image of the womb in this scene that Ruby sees as she realizes that she is pregnant.  If this is true, it reminds me of Tiffany's notion that O'Connor has a unique ability to effectively relate seemingly opposing concepts, or even give a concept a meaning that opposes conventional thought. 

When Ruby looks into her past, going all the way back to her own time in the womb, it reminds me of when people say that when they have a near-death experience, they see their lives pass before their eyes.  Here, O'Connor writes the exact opposite.  Instead of moving toward a bright light, Ruby moves toward the darkness of the "cavern."  Instead of discussing death, O'Connor is discussing birth.  O'Connor completely switches the conventional belief of birth as a new beginning for Ruby and her child and instead portrays it as the start of her death.

Also, I think that "the three echoes" refers to Ruby's past, present, and future, all of which are "leering" at her in her time of distress.  She considers her mother, her family, her childhood, her present situation in life, and what the birth of a child will cause in the future.  She views all three of these time periods to be negative, so naturally they would be leering at her, but it is interesting to note that they are taunting her with the words, "Good fortune, Baby."  Are they saying this because it is ironic that the one thing that she had been avoiding is now going to become a part of her life?  Although I think I understand what O'Connor was trying to convey in the first two segments of this quote, I don't really understand the part about the baby being "out nowhere."  And is "it" really the baby, or is "it" something else?  Does anyone have an idea about what her meaning could be in the final paragraph of the story?   


Look at what other peers have to say about O'Connor



Maddie Gillespie said:

I think that you made a great observation when blogging about these last few paragraphs of the story. Both you and Tiffany hit the nail right on the head when you wrote about Flannery O'Connor's ability to tie together two opposing concepts and then make them work for her. That is certainly not a talent, or even world view, that everyone can procure. "It was as if it were not in her stomach. It was as if it were out nowhere in nothing, out nowhere, resting and waiting, with plenty of time." You asked if anyone had any ideas about this last sentence. Well, my take on it was that Ruby was experiencing an out of body moment. She was perhaps in such a state of shock that she shutdown and simply took a look at the rest of the world around her. After all, she's gonna have plenty o' time too, nine months in fact, to think it all over!

Tiffany Gilbert said:

Part of the reason we are questioning the story is because this isn't normally how people would react to this situation. O'Connor uses this tactic to make us think differently from what we would. It is all internal battle with Ruby herself and the three echoes that you mentioned is awesome. I completely missed that but when you said they can reflect Ruby's past, present, and future, it amazed me. It just added to my perception of internal conflict and how strange O'Connor made the character Ruby and her reaction to this realistic situation.

Good point, Tiffany! Stories about people who react just as anyone would expect are boring. It's just like in journalism -- "dog bites man" isn't much of a story.

Erica Gearhart said:

Thanks for the comments. Maddie, I really like your response to my question. It does make sense that she would be so overcome by the realization that she would, as you said, have "an out of body moment." Thanks for the help in understanding the text!

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