Flannery O'Connor's double vision

Hedda Ben-Bassat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a letter to 'A', Flannery O'Connor introduces herself as 'a Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness'. This duality, she observes, grants her a perception of 'the contemporary situation at the ultimate level' (Habit of Being, 90). It equally creates in her a 'conflict between two sets of eyes ... which cannot be settled beforehand by theory or fiat or faith' (Mystery and Manners, 180). The present essay suggests that harnessing her dual vision and heightened perception to her work, O'Connor addresses a dual audience: implied 'casual readers', whose bunkered eyes allow them no insight, and ideal readers whom she wants to shake out of their modernist stereotypes by her ironic method of paying lip service to them. O'Connor seems to feel that her implied American readers dread the mysteries to which arrogant blindness initiates them, and would rather seek mastery by fashioning their self and their historical situation in the image of their own dreams. Her dual vision examines and criticizes modes of self-fashioning moulded by American ideological discourse, and offers another variation of self-representation. Central to this design is O'Connor's recourse to the time-honoured rhetorical constructs of Scriptural prophets. Adopting mimetic operations of Scriptural parables enables her to foreground her critique of traditional (misleading of Biblical heritage, and of modes of self-fashioning predominant in contemporary culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-199
Number of pages15
JournalLiterature and Theology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


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