THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY
In her first novel -- Wise Blood and in a collection of short stories -- A Good Man is Hard to Find Flannery O'Connor manifested, along with her obvious talent, a penchant for the grotesque. If one wishes, this novel -- an exercise in the macabre -- can be read as an allegory: a struggle for a soul, a conflict between evils. When his great uncle died at the breakfast table Francis Marion Tarwater, 14, too drunk to bury him, fired his house and set out for the city to find out how much of what the old man had told him was true. The old man, who said he was a prophet, had kidnapped the boy from his uncle, baptized him, and raised Tarwater to expect the Lord's call himself. Rayber, Tarwater's uncle, a schoolteacher, had, himself, received the old man's indelible mark but he had repudiated his fate and married a woman from the Department of Welfare, twice his age. They had one child: an idiot. When Tarwater met the schoolteacher's dim and ancient idiot. When Tarwater met the schoolteacher's dim and ancient idiot child, Bishop, he knew that he was expected to baptize him -- to carry on his great uncle's mission. The battle begins: between the schoolteacher's belief in nothing and the old man's fanaticism. Finally Tarwater succumbs to the tide of his heritage, baptizes and drowns Bishop and goes forth to the dark city "where the children of God lay sleeping". As a specialist in southern horror stories Miss O'Connor's attitude has been wry, her preferences perverse, her audience special.