Holy violence: The Puritan influence on Flannery O'Connor

Laurie Gurney Newburger, Fordham University


Divine grace descends upon Flannery O'Connor's flawed characters, creating the intense emotional, physical, and spiritual upheavals necessary for conversion. Redemption through the act of grace is O'Connor's central concern. But this redemptive message is often obscured by the extreme violence of grace and the great suffering it causes. This dissertation posits the theory that O'Connor's disturbing view of conversion is influenced by a powerful, historical, and distinctly American cultural influence: the Puritans. Although O'Connor frequently attacks the rigid morality and all-consuming work ethic inherited from the Puritans, her view of the divine is similar to that of the Puritans. God is filled with wrath and vengeance rather than solace and compassion, because people are willfully resistent to grace. Redemption is only possible when people confront their sinfulness. O'Connor's characters, however, continually build verbal and emotional barriers to block the divine. Linguistic walls block biblical truths, and disguise or deny sin. O'Connor's people must learn to view life through a biblical lens to become the new elect.

Subject Area

American literature|Literature|Theology

Recommended Citation

Newburger, Laurie Gurney, "Holy violence: The Puritan influence on Flannery O'Connor" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530033.