Suspend Your Disbelief

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Stories We Love: "A View of the Woods"

Everything that RisesWhile Flannery O’Connor combined humor and sadism in ways as mysterious as they are effective, to me, the way she was able to render horrific actions in people and still somehow make me sympathetic is her greatest achievement—even more so when she breaks out of the highly symbolic framings of tales such as “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People.” While these are incredible stories, less-known ones, in which characters transcend her desire to make them mere chess pieces and instead achieve a full humanity, are where she truly scorches.

“A View of the Woods” is one of those stories. It concerns the agonies of an old man named Fortune, who is determined to develop his land over the protests of his son-in-law, Pitts. In the middle is Pitts’ daughter, Mary, who shifts her alliances between her father and grandfather. Fortune is a craven and nasty man who does terrible things in the story, and while O’Connor makes me feel utterly sure that he gets what he deserves, she also imbues him full of sorrow and compassion as his just deserts are meted out.

How does she do it? With comic dialogue sharper than daggers, pacing that perfectly mirrors the old man’s psychic blistering, and language of hallucinatory anti-rapture, while also steering way from the nihilism of those better-known stories—which, I believe, makes them ultimately less powerful than the masterly “A View of the Woods.”

Join the Discussion

  • Lee Thomas

    Very much enjoyed your nuanced read of O’Connor, Michael. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read “A View of the Woods” – fortunate thing is I’ve got the complete stories on my shelf, so it’s on my list for some SSM goodness over the weekend!

  • I loved this story, too. One of my favorite O’Connor pieces alongside “The Turkey” and “A Late Encounter With the Enemy”. She’s unlike any other! Really enjoyed this little spotlight on her!

  • Jordon von Helf

    Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying but I am confused and baffled as to how you can claim her works such as “A good man is hard to find” falls under nihilism, when she was the enemy of nihilistic thought. Again, I could just be confused as to the point you are trying to make; either way, your explanation would be appreciated.

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