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March 24, 2006

A temple rent asunder

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

"Sister Perpetua said they were to say, 'Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!' and that would put an end to it .... Her mother didn't laugh at what they had said. 'I think you girls are pretty silly,' she said. 'After all, that's what you are -- Temples of the Holy Ghost.'"

This is the sort of idealistic advice one might expect from a nun, who most likely was never with a man herself, so she is therefore no real expert on the matter. I’m leaning toward the belief that uttering that phrase in the height of a teen’s passion will do no good at all. That is, if they can think clearly enough at the time to say it.

Just as the nun is no expert, neither are the 14-year-olds. The 12-year-old too, displays her ignorance about birth when she tries to bait the other girls with a description of a rabbit having a litter.

It is perhaps important to remember temples can be torn down and rebuilt numerous times, as history dictates. I thought that was interesting when the carnival freak reveals his physical malformation to the audience, making him a damaged or poorly-constructed temple?

The Holy Ghost phrase, I think is derived from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 in which Paul wrote the following: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (NIV). The line in the KJV is similar with an extra "ye" and "thou", but the message is the same and the KJV uses "Holy Ghost" not "Holy Spirit."

The explanation I read suggested that Paul meant Christ’s death freed us from sin, but that action also obligates us to his service. So we were “bought at a price”. Therefore, since our bodies no longer completely belong to us, the violation of our bodies also violates the manner in which God wants us to live.

Before I forget, here’s a great web site to find Bible passages: www.biblegateway.com. On it, you can search by key words, search by chapter and verse and other ways all in any of a number of different versions of the Bible. It’s proven to be a decent quick reference if anyone is stumped by the origin of a quote.

Posted by MattHampton at March 24, 2006 09:57 AM


Wow! You've really churned out some detailed blogs lately, Mr. Hampton! What about the carnival freak? He's reportedly both male and female, and this may be the only place where O'Connor gives us info second-hand filtered through the memory of the 14 year olds. The freak says "I'm going to show you this and if you laugh, God may strike you the same way." It's enough to keep the adults quiet-why did they have to be segregated if they were both looking at the same thing? I think it's O'Connor's way of criticizing hypocrisy in religion-if our bodies are really God's temples, isn't the freak's body one too? He/She certainly thinks so. The fact that the adults are quiet takes away O'Connor's criticism of religious hypocrisy, so I really don't know what to think. I immediately thought of the connection to the freak and the whole genitalia area when the big nun pressed the child's face into the crucifix on her belt-same bodily area and definitely as creepy!

Posted by: Brenda Christeleit at March 24, 2006 10:48 AM

Great analysis, Matt.

Brenda, we are all imperfect, like the freak, so your question applies equally to all of us.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerzq at March 24, 2006 03:56 PM

Flannery O'Connor equips her characters with a variety of defects. For example the freak in the carnival has a defect that can be covered up easily enough. Mr. Shiftlet (arm) has a defect that cannot be hidden so easily, but it's perhaps not as grotesque as the freak's defect, nor can Mr. Shiftlet's defect be corrected. Lucynell Crater was mentally retarded, everyone could see it but she was referred to as an angel a few times.

However, the 12-year-old's intolerance and arrogance is out in the open for everyone to see and is in some ways the most ugly of the bunch (the servant thought so). But it can be changed, as can Ruby's way of looking at the world.

I don't think O'Connor leads us to believe one type of defect is worse than the others, but in class discussion, we all seem most moved by the callous behavior by people like Bevel's parents, the mercilessness of the Misfit, the nosy manipulations of the grandma, Ruby's hypocrisies, etc.

We all have our own temples and sometimes they need repairs. I know mine is a fixer-upper.

Posted by: Matt Hampton at March 24, 2006 04:54 PM

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