The Violent Bear It Away
Date Published: 1955
Number of Pages: 256
Print Price: $11.20
eBook Price: $
Flannery O’Connor writes as she does to shine a light on the divine. A human being can no more understand the ‘why’ of the divine than an insect can understand the ‘why’ of a human being; but we can feel its call to us, indeed, its fingering of our very self whether we admit to it or not.
And why does the divine call to us? Because we come from God, and because He either wants to keep us close, or wants us back if we’ve strayed. The underlying theme in The Violent Bear it Away is that God’s love pursues us wherever, and whenever, He finds us hiding. And yes, I do mean hiding, because God’s love—as seen in the Crucifixion—is no meek thing to shoulder.
Though he is drawn to it, the novel’s main character Rayber is not courageous enough to admit to the divine, so he hides the mystery of it behind static scientific excuses that save him from having to ‘act’ upon it. He thinks of drowning his son, Bishop, but can’t act on it, so manipulates Tarwater into doing it. Bishop is pure innocence, therefore an example of the divine. When in the end, he’s baptized ‘by accident’ as Tarwater drowns him, Bishop has no need for Baptism. He is the sacrificial lamb for Tarwater.
Tarwater knows the importance of the divine, but runs from it, not because he can’t ‘act,’ but in an attempt to throw off the mores of his great uncle, as young people often desire to do. But his resistance is only as real as the invisible ‘friend,’ or stranger who lives in his thoughts. We know from the beginning he will give in to the haunting in his head. He will become the prophet his great uncle planned for him to be.
I think Flannery O’Connor uses the particulars of Protestant fundamentalism, rather than the particulars of her own Catholicism to show the divine in action on earth because it was—and is—so apparent in the South. Back then – and now – there is a certain admired courage in Protestantism that isn’t found in a quieter, more intellectual Catholicism. And we all know O’Connor’s style is more of a shout, than a whisper.Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.6 x 0.7 inches
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