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Water, water everywhere...

O'Connor, ''The River'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"He plunged under once and this time, the waiting current caught him like a gentle hand and pulled him swiftly forward and down. For an instant he was overcome with surprise; then since he was moving quickly and knew that he was getting somewhere, all his fury and his fear left him."

This story really makes great use of the river as a symbol of cleansing and renewal. One of my high school English teachers always pounded into our heads that water normally indicates some kind of cleansing or rebirth, and this river sure fits that description bigtime. Bevel wants to cleanse himself of his former life in which his parents don't really give him enough attention and love. He symbolically takes "a package of Life Savers" out of his mother's pocketbook and leaves his life behind without even a suitcase because there's "nothing from there he wanted to keep." As he cleanses himself of the pain, he looks up at the face of the significantly named Mr. Paradise. I also connected this to Everyman, where Everyman refers to Confession as a "cleansing river." Everyman too wants to cleanse himself of the pain of his sinful past.

Comments (1)


I'm fond of the irony of taking a package of "Life Savers" with him on a trip that ends in a death by drowning.

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