Sarah A. Tupa

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



This thesis explores the sometimes ironic and always problematic mistreatment of women by men in O'Connor's short stories and novels. Often, an enigmatic moment transpires during or after this mistreatment/violent act, influencing the woman's sudden moment of spiritual grace, understanding, or revelation. However, this violent act is often followed by the character's death, an important indication of what O'Connor regarded as the inadequacy of human, limited comprehension of earthly and spiritual matters. Such limitations stand in contrast to the omniscience, spiritual grace, and salvation granted by God to these same characters during their brief epiphanies. This violence and victimhood seem necessary for revelation and become universal and unifying themes in many (if not all) of O'Connor's short stories and novels. However, critics have largely overlooked the magnitude and universality of these themes in O'Connor's works, instead focusing on the grotesque characters, mythic allusions, religious implications, and other salient aspects of her works. The violent acts that bring about the spiritual and personal epiphany in several of O'Connor's short stories and her two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. prove problematic because the characters who commit the violence often are not deeply psychologically affected by that violence. Often, too, the point of view of the story shifts to the victim just as the violent act occurs, thus making an extended psychological interpretation of the violent male characters' motives difficult. However, although the women who are victimized are often thrust into epiphanic moments that allow them to glimpse or to obtain grace, this moment often closely prefigures death or some other violent end. Violence is a necessary catalyst for characters' awakenings, though, because the characters are so obdurate and ignorant that virtually nothing else but a terrible act will awaken them to God's grace. O'Connor's philosophies and beliefs about women; religion; and intellectual, spiritual, and moral growth also prove crucial in understanding her works--and the violence and violent characters in them.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

O'Connor, Flannery -- Criticism and interpretation
Violence in literature
Women in literature
Epiphanies in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University