People from all walks of life around the world shape their personalities from the world around them. Everything from childhood upbringing, marriage, childbirth, child rearing, religion and death rituals differ greatly among the various cultures around the world. The traditions that are put into place for each individual culture helps shape the personas of their people. As an author writes a short story or poem you will often see their own life experiences come to life within the pages of their works. Author Flannery O’Connor was quoted in our textbook as saying “The things we see, hear, smell, and touch affect us before we believe anything at all.” (DiYanni, 2007, p.188)
O’Connor was raised in Savannah Georgia in 1925. O’Connor herself stated that her deep Southern roots had a lot of influence in her writing. However, another influence in O’Connor’s writing was her roots as a Roman Catholic. A religious writer, O’Connor’s stories seem to be centralized around evil and redemption. You can make the connection between O’Connor’s religious beliefs and her short story “Good Country People.”
The story seems to focus on a young girl by the name of Joy. Joy lost her leg when she was ten years old due to a hunting accident. It appears that Joy has carried a lot of bitterness because of this accident. She legally changes her name from Joy to Hulga because it is the ugliest name she can think of. This is a reflection of Joy’s internal pain. Joy (Hulga) has gone through life not trusting anyone around her. She goes out of her way to be mean and hateful to her surrounding family and friends, especially her mother Mrs. Hopewell. The only two things in life Joy (Hulga) depends on are her education and her wooden leg that replaced her real leg she lost in the accident years ago. Joy (Hulga) also believes the quote “science wishes to know nothing of nothing.” She does not believe in good or evil. To her life is just a huge void. However, an encounter with a bible salesman challenges what Joy (Hulga) has always believed in. The Bible salesman is able to deceive Hulga because of her naieveness.He steals her wooden leg and leaves her helpless on the floor. Hulga learns that there is indeed evil in the world. The irony is, she is stuck lying on the floor waiting for her family to rescue her. These are the very people she had isolated. Left in that vulnerable position it is apparent that Joy (Hulga) turns to God when she has lost her crutches in the physical world. Until her family finds her and rescues her the only thing Joy (Hulga) can turn to is God. The moral O’Connor is trying to convey in this short story is that you should not depend on physical possessions to make it through life. You should depend on friends, family, and God. (DiYanni, 2007, p.188)
Another example of an author bringing their community into their writing is William Faulkner in “A Rose for Emily.” This short story was set in the fictional setting of Yoknapatawpha that was actually based on Faulkner’s real life community of Oxford, Mississippi where he grew up during the civil war. “A Rose for Emily” focuses on post war changes after the civil war. Faulkner is taking his real life experiences and reflecting them within his writing. (DiYanni, 2007, p.79)
A good author has the ability to bring a reader into their world when basing their works around their own life experiences. They will draw you into their world as you experience their happiness, sorrows, and life experiences with them. So next time you are reading a short story or poem remember that you are more than likely seeing the authors own life experiences through the pages of their works.
DiYanni, Robert. Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama. (2007) 6th edition. McGraw Hill