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Dissecting Flannery

How to Read Fiction

While reading, “The Teaching of Literature” in Mystery and Manners, these words stood out to me,

“The fact is, people don’t know what they are expected to do with a novel, believing, as so many do, that art must be utilitarian, that it must do something, rather than be something. Their eyes have not been opened to what fiction is, and they are like the blind men who went to visit the elephant – each feels a different part and comes away with a different impression”(123).

This really changed the way that I view novels. It touched on my exact experience and shed new light on the proper way to approach these readings. These words will likely stick with me and I will, hopefully, learn to see novels as art and not simply something to just race through quickly. As O’Connor said,

“The result of the proper study of a novel should be contemplation of the mystery embodied in it, but this is a contemplation of the mystery in the whole work and not of some proposition or paraphrase. It is not the tracking-down of an expressible moral or statement about life” (129).


Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in March of 1925. She was raised Catholic in a part of the south that was predominately Protestant. This experience informed much of her writing.

She described herself as a “pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.”


  • Wise Blood (1952)
  • The Violent Bear It Away (1960)

Short story collections

  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955)
  • Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965)
  • The Complete Stories (1971)

Blog Posts

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