Violence, Grace, and Solidarity: Reading Flannery O’Connor on Good Friday

Jonathan Dyck

In order to arrive at the joy and affirmation of Easter Sunday, we encounter the suffering and despair of Good Friday. It’s not a pleasant thing to acknowledge, but grace and violence appear bound together at Easter.

Few writers are as astute at recognizing this relationship as Flannery O’Connor. Rather than a world of neutral surfaces, O’Connor’s fiction presents us with a world that is irreducibly “grotesque.” For her, the history of the South has made for an environment that is “hardly Christ-centered, [but] is most certainly Christ-haunted” (M&M 44). Her characters may not act like Christians, but theirs is a world which is divinely given, a world in which grace regularly emerges and disrupts. For this reason, O’Connor’s fiction adopts what she has called, “prophetic vision,” a way of seeing that paradoxically understands near things at a distance and far things up close. As she puts it, “The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque.” ┬áThis has everything to do with her view that art is incarnational. It is, in other words, ultimately about embodiment rather than abstraction, and its particular kind of embodiment is a deeply mysterious and troubling one. Continue reading

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The Gunfighter and the Nation State Part III

“You Know What You Are? Just A Dirty Son-of-a-Bitch”

Andre Forget

If anyone in my generation has seen a western (aside from throwback pieces like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 3:10 to Yuma or Appaloosa) there are pretty good odds it has starred Clint Eastwood. The squinting green eyes, the reluctant gravel voice, the bursts of extreme and shocking violence; if John Wayne typified the western in the forties and fifties, Eastwood’s shadow lies long on the westerns of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Wayne’s heroes embodied the quintessential American virtues of independence, loyalty, toughness and fair play – Eastwood’s were morally ambiguous, vengeful, anti-social, and opaque. If westerns are, as I’ve been trying suggest, a barometer of American self-image, the movement from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to the Man With No Name is telling.

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