Toward Convergence through Revelation: O’Connor’s Narrative Response to Jung

Citation metadata

Editor: Catherine C. DiMercurio
From: Short Story Criticism(Vol. 262)
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 9,528 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

[(essay date 2015) In the following essay, Vasileiou considers the influences of Jungian concepts that O’Connor “considered congruent with Christian philosophy” on her composition of “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Revelation.”]

Flannery O’Connor’s stories “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Revelation” comprise, according to Forrest Ingram, the first and last narratives in a seven-story cycle, one organized to point to a convergence as the title of the collection indicates. The writer’s indebtedness to Teilhard de Chardin’s convergence concept is unquestionable; yet I propose that the stories are connected in an additional mode as they represent a dialectic between O’Connor and Carl Gustav Jung, whose perspective on religion O’Connor found limiting and dangerous for humans, even though she found many of his ideas on human nature helpful. O’Connor places these two narratively similar stories together in her collection and offers a narrative response to Jung’s perspective on religion as psychic reality. Arthur F. Kinney’s Flannery O’Connor’s Library: Resources of Being has given us the opportunity to examine the works which O’Connor read and which, to varying degrees, influenced her thinking and her fiction, even when that influence was in the form of reacting to the content of such pages. Among the holdings of O’Connor’s library, Kinney catalogs two by Jung, The Undiscovered Self and Modern Man in Search of a Soul, as well as books with forewords written by Jung and books written about him (such as Raymond Hostie’s Religion and the Psychology of Jung). Kinney informs us that O’Connor made marginal notes and underlined a significant number of passages from Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul (86), and in one of her letters she writes, “All of what Jung says about penance and accepting the world’s sins as your own, and emphasizing evil and admitting the shadow I can accept, because it is what I’ve always been taught by another source” (16 Mar. 1960, HB 382), so O’Connor kept a discerning eye for those Jungian concepts she considered congruent with Christian philosophy. Despite the aforementioned Jung-related material in O’Connor’s library and the multiple occurrences of Jung’s name in her collection of letters, relatively little has been written about Jung and O’Connor. One significant exception is Rebecca Rowley’s article that I will discuss later in exploring the story which the article references.

The present argument does not suggest that O’Connor is on a crusade against any and all Jungian concepts, and there are instances where she even adopts Jungian terminology, such as the dichotomy between primitive human and modern human. In a 20 July 1955 letter, O’Connor places her primary identification as a Catholic within the modern cultural framework, claims “However, I am a Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness, that thing Jung describes as unhistorical, solitary, and guilty,” and states that to possess this consciousness within the Church is to “bear a burden, the necessary burden for the conscious Catholic” (HB 90). O’Connor allows for the possibility that Jung explains some of the ailments of the contemporary...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420125477