Short Story #292: The Geranium by Flannery O'Connor

Title:  The Geranium

Author:  Flannery O'Connor


Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source:'Connor_1947.jpgOld Dudley watches out the window of the apartment to the apartment across the alley where the occupants put a geranium out on the windowsill for much of the day  He disproves of this but it does give him something to look at and think about.  He is a bit resentful about living in an apartment with his daughter's family but in a moment of weakness, the decision was made for him to live with them and not by himself out in the country.  Old Dudley continues flashes back and forth between life in the apartment in New York and the more open life he lived Coa County, where he lived in a boarding house with women and did various things around the area with an African American man, Rabie, who often was subservient to Old Dudley.  Dudley looks fondly upon the experience and longs to return as he experiences within the city are largely overwhelming.  The movement of the city coupled with the mixture of people can at times scare him.  When an African American moves an apartment on the same floor, Dudley believes that he is a servant and says as much.  His daughter is annoyed with the resentment Dudley shows when she explains that the man lives next door and no one should have a problem with that.  Later, she asks him to go down to the third floor to get something for her.  He reluctantly agrees and makes his way there.  Along the way, he passes the apartment in question.  The door is open and he can see an African American woman in there, whom he chides in his mind for wearing glasses.  After he fetches the item, he slowly makes his way back up the stairs but as he does, he encounters the African American man that he was talking about.  Dudley has a flashback of his time with Rabie when they were hunting so when the man approaches, Dudley is aiming a pretend gun.  The man offers to help the largely silent Dudley up the stairs slowly.  The man is friendly and helpful, asking questions that the man barely answers.  He goes back into the apartment, still startled by the experience.  He returns to his chair and finds that he cannot contain the crying that he has been holding back at different times throughout his stay here.  The man from across the alley sees him at this point and asks him why he is crying.  Dudley asks where the geranium is and the man says it fell.  Dudley and the man bicker about being in the window, caring for the geranium and such until the man tells him to go get the plant if he cares so much about it.  Dudley doesn't have the strength to get the plant or respond to the man in the end.  


There are some interesting contrasts in this story between the old ways and the new and the pace of life and mindsets.  Old Dudley (Old Dud) seems appropriately named in terms of how he reacts to his world.  At times, the reader feels bad for but also condemns his actions and thoughts. 

Short Story #292 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can find the full text of this short story at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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