Geography with Flannery O’Connor

The American South is a region with particular customs, geography, and dialect. These specifics of setting have influenced the writing of many a southern writer, but none more so than Flannery O’Connor.Image

Even the opening lines of her iconic and chilling masterpiece, A Good Man is Hard to Find, reveal its setting: “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind.” (The Complete Stories, p. 117)

O’Connor’s geography also informs her metaphors. She speaks of a young woman “whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on top like a rabbit’s ears.” (p. 117)

Sometimes she is more direct: “[The grandmother] pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground.” (p. 119)

Lesson Plan: Introduce an O’Connor story without giving details about her background. Ask students to collect clues about the geographical setting from the story, considering: desciptions of the land, political references, metaphors, race relations, food, or dialect.

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