Date of Award

1991

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lewis P. Simpson

Second Advisor

John R. May

Abstract

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor and A Curtain of Green by Eudora Welty are short story cycles harmonized by their marked imitation of the style and structure of parable. O'Connor added stories after initially sending the collection to the publisher and then rearranged them accordingly; her work represents a completed cycle. Welty's collection, published in an order different from their individual publications and their original placement in an early typescript, is an arranged cycle. Moreover, parabolic style and structure unify each cycle. A parable typically is a brief story told in the past tense, usually through a third person narrator; uses specific, historically accurate settings and incorporates themes having universal application; introduces a character who engages another in unavoidable conflict; refutes one or more of the basic assumptions (myths) by which a class of people or nationality reconciles and orders its environment; and concludes ambiguously, requiring the reader to determine the ending. Also, both cycles logically reflect the assumptions of Hebrew myth rather than those in the more commonly recognized Greco-Roman tradition. The Judaic and Southern cultures share agrarian economies, a theocentric understanding of history, feelings of persecution and guilt, subjugation through military defeat, and perpetuation of ritual. O'Connor's collection joins sacramental imagery and the themes of original sin, goodness, and grace to create parables of Southern religion and morality. Welty's parables subvert cultural myths dealing with place, caste systems, charity, aristocracy and the past. The collections also have internal thematic unity. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, adult characters seem unworthy either to offer or receive grace, view life as immediate, material and uni-dimensional, and wrestle with pride, usually unsuccessfully; children typically misunderstand the truths they encounter because their guardians have neglected to prepare them adequately. In A Curtain of Green, isolation and its consequences are repeatedly explored, as are dimensions of charity or pity. Other recurring elements include travellers whose specific goal is either directly stated or implied, the pivotal appearance of a significant stranger or of an object, and types of handicap. Welty's cycle is divided into two halves bridged by "A Memory." The first half emphasizes possibility by raising the question "what if?" The second half stresses characters who act deliberately to find catharsis. In both collections, each successive story builds upon foundations laid in previous stories. Thus, appreciation of the overall cycle requires that the stories be read consecutively.

Pages

262

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