April 20, 2005


Flannery O’Connor’s “Greenleaf” truthfully annoyed me to the end! Mrs. May had such a miserable and annoyed outlook on life. She tried to justify why she put up with her living conditions and business with the Mr. Greenleaf… because no one else would put up with him as a landlord and she had done so for the past fifteen years.

When first introduced, Mrs. May was struggling with the conflict of the bull outside of her home, eating away at her home, but she refused to call Mr. Greenleaf, which I can understand was probably easier because his spoken English and manners need a lot of work. “Weighing it, she (Mrs. May) decided not to bother Mr. Greenleaf. She returned to bed thinking that if the Greenleaf boys had risen in the world it was because she had given their father employment when no one else would have him. She had had Mr. Greenleaf for fifteen years but no one else would have had him five minutes…”

While at first I believed her heart was in the right place (particularly because of her sacrifices for others – the Greenleaf boys), Mrs. May continues throughout the story to criticize everyone – Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf and their sons, as well as her own sons. She is a very negative individual and finds happiness in other people’s unhappiness. Perhaps she needs to do some form of “prayer healing,” like Mrs. Greenleaf. Wesley made a great point when he told his mother that “the reason Mrs. Greenleaf had not aged was because she released all her emotions in prayer healing.” Despite her lack of cleanliness and poor physical appearance, Mrs. Greenleaf was definitely much happier and less angry than Mrs. May.

There was a great use of foreshadowing within this story. I believe it also teaches a lesson. Mrs. May had a problem with dealing with issues from the beginning. Rather than go to the source of the problem, she continued to complain and argue. This just caused more stress and unhappiness. She lived a life filled with reasons of why she did the things she had done (such as stay on the farm to make something out of it – despite everyone telling her she would be a failure).

Mrs. May also liked to criticize others and be jealous for their achievements (such as with the Greenleaf sons who had done nothing to receive the better things in life – as a result of injuries from serving in the war). It seems to me that she got what was needed in the end, because she would have never been happy with her life, as long as others were around her to criticize and try to feel superior to.

This story began and had a way of making you sympathize for Mrs. May, but through her deviance and thoughts filled with hatred, one learns she is no better than anyone else, and in fact, like a poison for everyone around her. This is especially seen as she smiles in the car before Mr. Greenleaf was to shoot the bull. She loved feeling in control and knowing that he would have to do something he absolutely hated. I received a story of morale from Mrs. May in that complaining about and criticizing everyone/thing in life will only leave you miserable and left alone to die with no one to care. A pessimistic attitude can consume you… and then it is too late. It reminds me of a great quote that I feel people should remember and incorporate into their daily lives…

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Jerz: Am Lit II (EL 267): O’Connor, “Greenleaf”

Posted by KaylaTurano at April 20, 2005 7:57 PM | TrackBack

So did the story annoy you, or remind you of the lesson not to follow in her ways. I don't believe that Mrs. May's character was intended to irritate, but rather educate- because you and I MAY very well be just like her [someday].

Posted by: RUTH at February 9, 2006 2:55 PM
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