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The Humor Of Flannery O'connor Essay

1826 words - 7 pages

Webster's online dictionary defines humor as "a quality that appeals to a sense of the ludicrous (laughable and/or ridiculous) or incongruous." Incongruity is the very essence of irony. More specifically, irony is "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the expected result." Flannery O'Connor's works are masterpieces in the art of literary irony, the laughable and ridiculous. The incongruous situations, ridiculous characters, and feelings of superiority that O'Connor creates make up her shocking and extremely effective, if not disturbing, humor. I say "disturbing" because O'Connor's humor, along with humor in general, most often contains the tragic. O'Connor has been quoted as saying, "The comic and the terrible [...] may be opposite sides of the same coin" (Farley 17). Throughout her works, specifically "Good Country People," O'Connor uses her humor to humble and expose the biases of the overly intellectual and spiritually bankrupt.

"Good Country People" starts with the introduction of Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell. O'Connor's most blatant humor is found in the revealing of these two characters, a simple humor for simple people. Immediately, the reader begins chuckling at these two from a decided feeling of superiority over them. Their sacred cliches and gossip routine automatically make the reader want to put them both in the category of "good country people," which, in itself, is an ironic title in that it suggests an immediate air of superiority by bothering to judge a class of people that are generally considered to rest somewhere towards the bottom of society's social order. Clinton Throwbridge further supports this notion when he states, "The titles of many of Flannery O'Connor's short stories are in themselves examples of what might be called "plays on cliches." What kind of rural snobbishness as well as Rousseauistic view of man is really hidden in the title "Good Country People?" (78).

The narrator only compounds the laughable idea that these women are up to par with the average reader--after all, O'Connor was a well educated woman, writing for the literate--when he/she notes Mrs. Hopewell's "charitable" pride of Mrs. Freeman: Mrs. Hopewell liked to tell people [...] that Mrs. Freeman was a lady and that she was never "ashamed to take her anywhere" (Diyanni 172). The reader is inclined to laugh even harder at this, a terrible irony, after having already established both ladies as simple, "good country people." Of course, most of the true irony or humor found in O'Connor's stories is not found in the immediate and obvious. If we were to consider only Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman in the context in which they are presented to us in the beginning of the story, then we would have to conclude that O'Connor is in fact making fun of the faithful. Fortunately, she is a much better writer with a much deeper intent than that; as the story develops, so does the integrity of the "simple people." This eventual...

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