Short Story #298: Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

Title:  Everything That Rises Must Converge

Author:  Flannery O’Connor

Summary

Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Flannery-O'Connor_1947.jpgJulian is taking his mother to the YMCA for her weekly class to help her reduce her blood pressure.  His mother supports him now that he has graduated college and can't seem to get his writing career started.  As they get ready, the two bicker about the hat that the mother is wearing and this eventually rolls into a discussion about lineage and how they descended from great men who owned plantations and slaves and now they live in less desirable conditions.  The conversation slips further into discussing race wherein Julian condemns his mother for her racist beliefs.  Julian continues to feel self-righteous in his evolved beliefs and looks for ways to annoy his mother.  When they are at the bus-stop, he takes off his tie.  Once on the bus, they converse with others about the heat and there is more tension that develops between Julian and his mother.  Enough so that when an African American gets on the bus, he decides to sit next to him to spite his mother.  He proceeds to try to interact with the man but the man is not interested.  Julian's mind continues to scheme and plot about ways to annoy and anger his mother.  An African American woman and her child get aboard and Julian hopes for another confrontation, but instead of the mother, the child sits with his mother.  His mother considers all children precious and so he loses hope about a confrontation.  However, he does realize the woman has the same hat that his mother does and he hopes that this will frazzle her sensibilities.  When it comes time to get off the bus, the mother decides to offer a nickel to the boy, which Julian tries to discourage.  She doesn't listen and the mother of the boy slaps her to the ground in anger.  No sooner does the woman and child leave than Julian is telling his mother that she got what she deserved.  The mother stops and decides to walk home.  Julian protests but she just walks home with no emotion.  After a while, she collapses and immediately, Julian is sent into fear about his mother's possible death.


Reflection

Such a great story that engages the nuances of racism in white culture.  Julian's attempt at proving his welcoming of other races is damning and something that still happens today when people claim to be welcoming to outsider groups.  There's a bit of the "I can't be racist, because I have friends that are minorities," argument but in Julian's case, it's theoretical at best and tokenism at worse--seeking out minorities just to rattle his mother.  It's a great example of how racism is so pernicious.



Short Story #298 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.   

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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