Toward the end of her life, Flannery O’Connor was often asked to speak about being a Southerner, as though this were a peculiar condition in need of explanation. In “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South,” a composite essay published from two of her last public talks, she sums up what she thinks of her region: “What has given the South her identity are those beliefs and qualities which she has absorbed from the Scriptures and from her own history of defeat and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and a knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.” Of these three dimensions of the South, “distrust of the abstract” might remain the one most in need of a defense, whether for the South, for O’Connor herself, or for literature as a mode of knowledge.
Before she died from lupus at the age of thirty-nine, O’Connor spent her last fourteen years writing fiction and raising peacocks at her mother’s dairy farm outside Milledgeville, Georgia. Given her illness, she had a limited range of experiences to draw on for her fiction, and her stories tend to focus repetitively on a few basic scenarios—often a mother who has to run the farm by herself, the tenants who are supposed to help but who present problems of their own, and a violent revelation. None more closely reproduces O’Connor’s own circumstances than “Good Country People.” The tenant woman who helps Mrs. Hopewell, Mrs. Freeman, stands in the kitchen “as real as several grain sacks thrown on top of each other,” and she has “a special fondness for the details of secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children. Of diseases, she preferred the lingering or incurable.”Read More: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2015/12/flannery-oconnor-gifts-of-meaning-and-mystery.html