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April 23, 2006

General disorder: a late encounter with blogging

O'Connor, ''A Late Encounter with the Enemy'' -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“She meant to stand on that platform in August with the General sitting in his wheel chair on the stage behind her and she meant to hold her head very high as if she were saying, ‘See him! See him! My kin, all you upstarts! Glorious upright old man standing for the old traditions! Dignity! Honor! Courage! See him!’” (154).

In a touch if irony, by forcibly putting him on the stage O’Connor shows us Sally doesn’t stand for those virtues herself. I agree with Megan that the general is a prop. In fact, what is a sash, but an ornament, not functional for any reason, merely eye-catching.

Other than watching parades, the general is otherwise useless and somewhat senile. In fact, the only worthwhile memory he has is presiding over a “premiere” in Atlanta. Incidentally, that’s the second time I’ve seen that word used. FSF used it when Jordan Baker described Daisy Fay in Louisville, saying at one point she had a premiere, which I take to be an archaic expression for a party of some sort in which the host gets the honor of holding it. I’ve never heard it used like that except in these two stories so maybe it’s a southern expression. I’ll have to look into it now that my curiosity is piqued.

Sally, tries to use the general as a tool to gain some sort of revenge on the vague “they” who force her to attend summer classes in order to get her licensure. In her view, her relation to the general will make her seem more aristocratic than, the other “commoners”. This, like we see in the girl in “Temple of the Holy Ghost” and some of O’Connor’s other characters, is maybe the sin of pride?

So by placing the frail general on stage she ultimately is the catalyst in his death.

I had little reaction to this story other than I figured, due to the foreshadowing Megan mentioned, the general was going to die. O’Connor, as she’s apt to do, leaves us to guess at Sally Poker’s reaction, the same way she leaves us without knowing the reaction of Bevel Ashfield’s parents after his drowning. I can’t help but think were she to continue we’d learn a lot more about the characters by those reactions. But that’s her style. I think after she exhibits the point she wants to prove, she likes to end it. Few of the stories in this book end so completely.

Posted by MattHampton at April 23, 2006 9:43 AM


How ironic that Sally is a teacher who hasn't mastered the subject (of life) herself. You've hit on the topic of my final paper-the archetypal theme of how O'Connor places the onus of growth on her reader by stopping her stories before we see what effect the action had on the characters. Is a "premiere" like a debutante's "coming out party"? (there is probably a better name for it than it's present commotation)

Posted by: Brenda Christeleit at April 23, 2006 10:04 AM

I'd love to read your paper since my thesis was similar: The inverse relationship of protagonist and reader epiphanies in O'Connor's short stories.

Posted by: jennifer Difulvio at May 3, 2006 10:47 AM

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