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SPIRITUAL EPIPHANIES: THE ROLE OF DISABILITY IN FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S SHORT STORIES

Moore, Holly A. (2015) SPIRITUAL EPIPHANIES: THE ROLE OF DISABILITY IN FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S SHORT STORIES. Masters thesis, Radford University.

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Abstract

My analysis will show that disability and spirituality join together to reveal the autonomy disabled characters possess. These characters, deemed “disabled” in society because of genetics, choices, accidents, and illnesses, are both transformed themselves and serve as the catalyst in transforming others. To better understand the content chapters of my analysis, the introduction outlines O’Connor’s personal experience as a disabled woman, the terminology of disability, the American movement of Eugenics, and the importance of key elements of the short fiction genre. I explore how the characters in Flannery O’Connor’s short stories manifest their spiritual shortcomings through their physical disabilities. In some cases, the limitations of the disabled are not indicators of their own spiritual disabilities, but rather the catalyst for the reader to understand the spiritual lack of the able-bodied foil. In “Good Country People,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “The Enduring Chill,” “The Turkey,” “The Temple of the Holy Ghost,” and “The Lame Shall Enter First,” the dynamic focusing character in the narrative will have a moment of epiphany catalyzed by disability – either their own as in Chapter 2, or of another as in Chapter 3. For each example I highlight the moment of epiphany and comment on the possible enlightenment the character achieves while addressing O’Connor’s methods of combating the Eugenics Movement. By exploring three of O’Connor’s short stories – “Good Country People” (1955), “The Life You Save May be Your Own” (1955), and “The Enduring Chill” (1958) – in Chapter 2, a similar redemptive trajectory will appear for each of the disabled protagonists. Though not all of the characters complete their arc of enlightenment, each comes to a revelation that links their body and spirit, allowing them to view the world they have created for themselves from a new perspective. Far from presenting the disabled body in a poor light or in jest, O’Connor instead proves to the reader that all men and women are equalized through a disabled spirit. In the three stories of Chapter 2, circumstances acted as the catalysts for the revelations. However, as I discuss in Chapter 3, in other O’Connor stories, the disabled character acts as the catalyst for the abled-bodied character’s epiphany. By examining “The Turkey,” “A Temple of the Holy Ghost,” and “The Lame Shall Enter First,” the trend of a disabled catalyst will be revealed. In these stories, the focus is on the able-bodied epiphany, rather than the disability. In other words, showing the protagonist’s journey of transformation, as catalyzed by a disabled character, is the main goal of the analysis. O’Connor wrote stories that gave disabled characters a voice in the midst of the pervasive social approval of the eugenics movement. But beyond giving disabled characters a voice, she wrote about autonomous characters who were catalysts for change, both in themselves and in others. Though the dynamic characters in each of these six stories ended their journey at a different stage, each experienced a moment of epiphany at the crossroads of physical and spiritual disability. Holly A. Moore, M.A. Department of English, 2015 Radford University

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Holly A. Moore
Date Deposited: 06 May 2016 16:35
Last Modified: 06 May 2016 16:35
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/214

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