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Flannery O'Connor Quotes

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)

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Flannery O'Connor, a Southern Roman Catholic, had already begun to sell a few stories when she was struck with lupus, a disease her father had died from. Her two novels and her short stories were set in the rural south, and often featured strange characters, mixing comedy and violence, with a strong current critiquing materialism and focus on externalities such as class, as characters go through spiritual struggles. O'Connor described them as stories about original sin.

Selected Flannery O'Connor Quotations

• Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

• You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.

• The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach ar.

• At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.

• I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.

• All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.

• Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.

• Sickness is more instructive than a long trip to Europe.

• The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence.

• Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.

• It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes.

• Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.

• Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.

• Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.

• I write to discover what I know.

• I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I'm afraid it will not be controversial.

• I am a writer because writing is the thing I do best.

• A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.

• Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.

• The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is. What-is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them.

• The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.

• I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both time and eternity.

• I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and that what I see in the world I see in relation to that.

• When people have told me that because I am a Catholic, I cannot be an artist, I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am a Catholic I cannot afford to be less than an artist.

• The Catholic novelist in the South will see many distorted images of Christ, but he will certainly feel that a distorted image of Christ is better than no image at all. I think he will feel a good deal more kinship with backwoods prophets and shouting fundamentalists than he will with those politer elements for whom the supernatural is an embarrassment and for whom religion has become a department of sociology or culture or personality development.

• Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.

• When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.

• All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.

• It seems that the fiction writer has a revolting attachment to the poor, for even when he writes about the rich, he is more concerned with what they lack than with what they have.

• I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.

• When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business.

• People without hope not only don't write novels, but what is more to the point, they don't read them.

• Total nonretention has kept my education from being a burden to me.

• Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.

• I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.

• Tennessee's a hillbilly dumping ground, and Georgia's a lousy state too.

• When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2010. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Flannery O'Connor Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/f_oconnor.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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