Humor in O’Conner’s Stories
Humor in O’Conner’s stories is represented in a specific manner and is used in a description of characters’ appearance, Christian context, dramatic situations, and dialogues, which helps the readers to understand the meaning of the story. O’Connor uses humor for exposing biases of the overly spiritual and intellectual bankrupts. She considers that humor is not only a supplement to the serious themes but a reflection of a deep mystery. Due to her convictions, humor elements are important as a vehicle for deeper truths.
Using Humor for Readers’ Better Understanding of the Main Theme
Previously critics neglected humor elements in the stories written by O’Connor. The main cause of humor elements ignoring was author’s empathizing more on the theological and fiction constituent of the stories. Humor in her stories is not brightly represented; it is largely hidden and used with the aim to affect the readers’ deeper understanding of the main sense of the story. O’Connor uses humor in the description of physical details, the style of speech, and heroes’ gestures. For example, describing the face of Bailey’s wife in the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the author notices that it is “broad and innocent as a cabbage” (Suntana 3). Humor in the dialogues helps much for the readers to understand the main message of the story. Dialogues in the stories by O‘Conner are comic not because heroes tell funny things but because the discussion shows banality and foolishness of their characters. O‘Conner uses humor in situations when the characters try to confront unexpected or difficult situations and demonstrates the readers that people are not almighty as they think. She ridicules the characters who are proud of their superiority. The other tone of humor is highlighted through ethnical and educational problems (Somerville 82).
Grotesque is also frequently used in the stories by O‘Conner. Critique Claire Kahane considers that grotesque is used by O‘Conner as an oscillation between fearful and comic situations. Grotesque is one of humor’s constituent parts, which is used for highlighting more serious themes and helps the readers to find an essence of the plot.
It is important to mention that O’Connor also uses humor in the Christian context. Humor elements in the stories by O‘Conner are a manifestation of the Christian mystery, God’s grace, and expression of love and faith (88). Representation of humor through the Christian aspects helps readers to understand that the real world is much larger than a visible one.
Using of Irony and Other Specific Tones of Humor in O’Connor’s Stories
Reflection of Humor in the Story “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” The story “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by O’Connor tells about racial prejudices and undesired assimilation of integration in the South in the 1960s. The main heroin and her son Julian live in a shabby neighborhood and have a negative attitude to their neighbors. O’Connor represents a specific tone of humor with the help of ethical aspects and derision of human superiority. The author ridicules Julian’s confidence in his superiority to his mother. Besides, he is financially dependent on her. Julian has only college education, but due to his convictions he is “too intelligent to be a success” (O’Connor 228). O’Connor uses irony while describing Julian, who lives in the old mansion of his family and has no financial problems. Julian deludes himself with the ideas of supremacy.
In the story “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” O’Connor uses humor for the exposure of racial prejudices. An irony is evident when an African American woman with the same hat sits near the mother. Julian’s shallowness is also ironically represented in his desire for the black women to sit near his mother in order to irritate her. Julian uses every suitable moment to mock her mother. For example, in the funny situation with the same hat he says, “She can wear the same hat as you, and to be sure it looked better on her than it did you” (O’Connor 232). Julian’s mother disrespects African American people, which finally leads her to the death. Despite the protection from the hard blow of the black women, Julian’s mother receives verbal assault from her son. In this situation, the author uses irony to show the readers Julian’s shallow way of thinking and his absence of compassion.
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Reflection of Humor in the Story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” O’Connor represents a specific tone of humor in the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by incorporation of regional dialects, description of funny physical appearance, and the Christian context. The author lets the readers understand a real essence of the family members describing their actions and using humor details. For example, the owner of Sammy’s Famous Barbecue looks ridiculous in his khaki trousers which sit low on his hips, while his big stomach hang over them “like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt” (O’Connor 44). An ironic manner of the speech with sighs and yodel is represented in the conversation of the family members. The author uses irony in the Christian context by depicting religious symbols. This kind of an irony is represented during the meeting of the family with a killer Misfit. At the beginning of the story, the family members are selfish and fussy. However, their behavior changes in problematic situation and after the wreck they seem subdued. At first, actions of the grandmother could be considered very amusing, and only tragedy makes her show how self-centered and blind she is. The author uses irony when the grandmother begins to flatter Misfits, who killed her close people. She exclaims, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people” (46). Nevertheless, her quirks do not help the old woman, and the criminal kills her.
Reflection of Humor in the Story «Good Country People.” The story begins with a conversation of Mrs.Freeman and Mrs.Hopewell, which contains humorous elements that O’Connor effectively incorporates. The author uses a specific tone of humor in descriptions of characters’ appearance, their superiority, and the Christian context. An irony is represented in the heroines’ sacred clichés and gossip routine that put both of them in the category of good country people. Mrs.Hopewell claims that Mrs.Freeman is a real lady and she is never “Ashamed to take her anywhere” (O’Connor 64). The author also uses irony describing a false superiority of the heroes. For example, she describes 32 year old Doctor of Philosophy in clothes of a six year old girl. One-legged heroine with a funny name Hulga is a bright example of superiority. Hulga considers that she is very intelligent and much better than other people. An irony in the story is represented through funny physical descriptions. For example, O’Connor compares first kiss of Hulga and a Bible salesman with a mechanical fish kiss (O’Connor 68).
The author employs irony in the Christian context using a figure of a Bible salesman who wants to sell the book to Mrs. Hopewell. An irony is brightly shown in the scene when the salesman skillfully pretends to be a country man because it can help him to get the loyalty of Mrs. Hopewell and sell her the book. The main aim of the author is to show the readers that people believe in lies that they make up with the help of irony.
Generalization of the Common Tone of Humor and Dramatic Irony in the Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Many critics consider that the humor of O’Connor is not disturbing because it is not brightly shown but hidden. Three stories, including “Good Country People,” “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by O’Connor have common tones of humor, which are represented in dramatic form, Christian context, verbal form (in dialogues), in descriptions, and reflection of character’s superiority. The author uses multiple humorous details in tragic situations. O’Connor combines the comic and the terrible, because both aspects are opposite sides of the same coin (Trowbridge 79). For example, in the story “Good Country People,” dramatic humor is brightly shown in strange relations of Hulga and a Bible salesman, who steals her artificial leg and hides it in his bag. The story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” also contains many dramatic moments with humorous details. The author uses dramatic tone of humor describing mother’s desperate cry to her son who is shot (Wilson 103). The mother raises her head and cries like an old turkey hen. O’Connor incorporates humor to illustrate the active evil of murders. Story’s dramatic humor centers on the interaction of family with the killer, for instance in the scene when an old mother calls the killer of her family “her own son.” A dramatic tone of humor is also involved in the story “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” It is reflected in the self-confidence of Julian who, in spite of poor financial status and job absence, considers himself a real professional who is above others. Dramatic humor is brightly shown in the relations between Julian and his mother. She has a prejudiced attitude towards the African Americans, but tries to show that she respects them. The mother wants to give a penny to the black child and instead of gratitude she receives a humming blow from his mother, which causes Julian’s mother death.
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Flannery O’Connor is a skillful writer who represents mysterious and tragic reality via irony and humor. Several tones of humor involved in the discussed short stories help the reader look deeper in the root of the problems and understand their real nature. Every story by O’Conner illustrates dramatic humor, which is her individual and unique peculiarity as a writer. Only a highly skilled writer can relevantly use humor as an adjuvant element in the dramatic situation for strengthening the appropriate effect on the reader.