A Violent Illumination of Salvation Flannery O'Connor uses violence to return characters to reality and prepare them to accept their moment of grace. The New Encyclopedia Britannica defines grace as the "spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine or the divine influence operating in man for his regeneration and sanctification" (401). At any cost, a soul must find salvation. O'Connor states, "In my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace" (qtd.in Bain 407). Dorothy Walters, Associate Professor of English at Wichita State University, believes O'Connor's single theme is the battle between God and the devil "dueling for the human soul in the ancient clash" (105). The illumination of salvation through violent means is essential because "both O'Connor and her God are ironists [unyielding] . . . her heros are willful characters who must be humbled in learning that the will of God must prevail" (Master-pieces 497). O'Connor portrays two varieties of sinners who possess either excessive pride or aggressive evil traits. The price of redemption is high. O'Connor violently shocks her characters, illuminates their shortcomings, and prepares them for redemption as seen in: "A Good Man is Hard to Find," "Revelation," "The River," and "The Lame Shall Enter First." Walters reasons, "The instruction of pride through lessons of humility is, in each story, the means by which the soul is prepared for its necessary illumination by the Holy Spirit" (73). The grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and Rudy Turpin in "Revelation" is each convinced that she is a lady of elevated status. When threatened by superior beings, their self-imposed facades fall. Inherent human weaknesses are not tolerated and the faulty soul is damned or violently returned to reality (Walters 72). In The Habit of Being, O'Connor emphasizes: "My devil has a name . . . His name is Lucifer, he's a fallen angel, his sin is pride, and his aim is destruction of the Divine plan" (456). The grandmother is extremely prideful and identifies herself as a "lady" as O'Connor reveals in the clothing description: The children's mother still had on slacks . . . but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress . . . trimmed with lace . . . In case of an accident, any one seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (A Good 11) When the grandmother's trivial scheming causes the family to leave the paved
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