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The Geranium

Publication History
The Geranium
Critical Analysis

“An Africanist Impasse: Race,


Return, and Revelation in the
Short Fiction of Flannery
O’Connor”

Nicholas Crawford
The Geranium
Critical Analysis
• The connection between home and African-
American’s to O’Connor characters .
• “In other words, in O’Connor’s short fiction we find a recurring pattern: a white
protagonist on a journey of return, whose encounter with an African American
character signals a failure of personal and social self-reckoning.”
• “…a clear indication that this is a theme that haunts O’Connor, in her first story,
‘The Geranium,”’and her last- a reworking of the first- ‘Judgment Day,’ Dudley
and Tanner experience devastating encounters with their black neighbors, yet
they still reminisce about their old homes in the South and about the ‘Negroes’
they knew there.”
• “Again and again O’Connor narratives follow a white protagonist whose
significant and sought after encounter with black Americans signals a failed
attempt at a secular homecoming.”
The Geranium
Critical Analysis
• How O’Connor’s fiction reflects the psycho-
social realities of race relations.
• “The repetition of this particular narrative pattern suggests that the
culminating moments of grace are triggered by, and reflective of,
social, historical, and psychological circumstances. O’Connor’s black
characters figure prominently in this set of contingencies and serve to
catalyze the main characters’ spiritual homecoming at the expense of a
secular and psychological one.”
• “The pattern of attempted return, followed by a failed recognition
scene with quasi-familial black characters, and ending in escape from
psychological ruin through the merciful (or merciless) ‘action of grace’
is in full evidence.”
Judgment Day
Publication History
• Last story in Everything that Rises Must
Converge (FSG, 1965)
• Rewritten version of her first story, “The
Geranium.”
• Middle version titled “An Exile in the East”
• Published posthumously in South Carolina
Review in 1978
• “Judgment Day” written “in extremis” or “at
the point of death.”
• Sally Fitzgerald, editor of the Library of America
edition of O’Connor’s collected works, believes
the title should be spelled “Judgments Day,”
following one of O’Connor’s typscripts, but the
story was first printed as “Judgement Day”
The Geranium
Critical Analysis
• The connection between home and African-
American’s to O’Connor characters .
• “…in O’Connor’s short fiction we find a recurring pattern: a white protagonist on a
journal of return, whose encounter with an African-American character signals a failure
of personal and social self-reckoning: and it is this failure, this impasse, that sparks the
need for deliverance through spirituality.”
• “…a clear indication that this is a theme that haunts O’Connor, in her first story, “The
Geranium,” and her last- a reworking of the first- “Judgment Day,” Dudley and Tanner
experience devastating encounters with their black neighbors, yet they still reminisce
about their old homes in the South and about the ‘Negroes’ they knew there.”
• “The emphasis on the geranium’s exposed roots focuses the story’s central symbol on
Dudley’s transplanted, vulnerable state, and on the role of an unviable past violently
exposed by the present.”
Judgment Day
Publication History
• Letter to Robert Giroux (21 May 1964)
• “…however, there is a story [“Judgment Day”] that I have been
working on off and on for several years that I may be able to finish
in time to include. If not, I would rather have six or seven good
stories than six or seven good and one bad…”
• Letter to Catherine Carver (27 June 1964)
• “…Will you look at this one [“Judgment Day”] and say if you think
it fitten for the collection of if you think it can be made so? It’s a
rewrite of a story that I have had around since 1946 and never
been satisfied with, but I hope I have it now except for details
maybe…”
• Letter to Catherine Carver (15 July 1964)
• “…I do thank you and I’ll get to work on this one [“Judgment Day”]
you sent back. I can see the point about the daughter’s coming
being too close to his encounter with the doctor. As for the “on his
back” business—that’s a cherished Southern white assertion—that
the Negro is on his back and in a way it’s quite true. But you have
to be born below the M.D. line to appreciate it fully…”
Judgment Day
Critical Analysis