Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is best known for her short stories. Her work is most often placed within the Southern Gothic tradition, alongside that of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. O’Connor’s short stories feature disturbing characters who exhibit violent and unfathomable behavior; however, it is the disturbing nature of her grotesque characters that makes her prose so memorable and reveals the message she intends to convey. O’Connor’s fiction is notable for its focus on Roman Catholic theology, particularly the concept of grace. O’Connor’s Roman Catholic beliefs were conventional in that she accepted the traditional dogma of the church, but her manner of writing about these beliefs was highly unconventional.
The Flannery O’Connor Correspondence Collection contains 8 handwritten and 93 typed letters from O’Connor to Cecil Dawkins, a fellow writer. These letters are valuable to those interested in O’Connor because they are an intimate revelation of both her personality and her thoughts about her writing. In her letters the reader will discover that O’Connor frequently refers to her work.
In a 1957 letter to Dawkins, O’Connor reflects, “There is really only one answer to the people who complain about one’s writing about ‘unpleasant’ people—and that is that one writes what one can.” Yet O’Connor interspersed her discussions of the art of writing fiction with vivid and humorous anecdotes, many pertaining to the peacocks that she raised on her farm in Georgia. In one letter she complains that her peacocks “have no proper sense of place.” She continues, “We have a very nice lawn that they could decorate to advantage but they prefer to sit on the tractors or the top of the chicken house or the garbage can lid.” Obviously, the delight that one experiences while reading O’Connor’s letters exceeds mere academic appreciation.
Also included in this collection are a program for the 1963 commencement of Smith College at which O’Connor was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree and a photograph of O’Connor with Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, College President.