Mary Grace and the Warthog from Hell: Violent Redemption in Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation”

Halina Hopkins

Abstract


Scholarship on the works of Flannery O’Connor is divided on her depiction of divine grace as a violent force. Some scholars worry that her insistence on the violence of grace makes God a violent God or excuses the pain and brokenness of the world. Alternately, some authors have defended O’Connor’s use of violence to show an opening for grace. These scholars argue that, though it might seem counterintuitive to think of divine grace as wounding before it heals, being torn from an old life of sin is painful. Despite the arguments of those who oppose O’Connor’s view of violent grace, this paper will argue that O’Connor is right to depict violence in her short stories because, by doing so, she reinforces the idea that God can bring goodness out of even the most extreme evil. In O’Connor’s stories, God transforms the sinful disruption that violence creates in order to reach modern readers, challenging their subjectivity and bringing them closer to God. While not excusing violence or the perpetrators of violent acts, O’Connor’s theology shows how God uses violence for His purpose, making the effects of brokenness in this imperfect world into conduits for divine perfection and wholeness. This paper makes this argument through a close reading of O’Connor’s short story “Revelation,” along with examinations of O’Connor’s essays. O’Connor’s writings make clear that her primary concern is with the modern, Enlightenment self, which sees itself as the ultimate source of meaning and truth. O’Connor reacts against the modern self’s egoism by observing the impact of the violence on one’s sense of self. She implies that through the shock of violence, modern human beings might abandon the illusion of self-authorship since violence creates cracks in a character through which God shines. However, O’Connor not only shows violence in her stories, but enacts a mimicry of violence on the reader through her use of the grotesque. The idea of violence therefore permeates the shape of the narrative and the relationship between writer and reader.


Keywords


Flannery O’Connor; violence; grace

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