“The grandmother did not want to go to Florida.” Flannery O’Connor’s Mastery of the Short Story Form

Flannery O'Connor's desk and typewriter

Flannery O’Connor‘s desk and typewriter

(c) Copyright 2014,  Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved.

“The grandmother did not want to go to Florida” is the first line in O’Connor’s short story masterpiece, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” It is a masterful opening line in that in one short sentence it conveys the central tension and conflict that is the engine that drives and propels the rest of the story.  No small feat, take it from me 😉

In the next several blog posts, I’d like to take a close look at her literary pyrotechnics and  methods with the short story genre and analyze how she so successfully practiced and honed them to make the short story genre a whiz-bang delivery system for her views and perform like greased lightning for shocking the reader into closer contact with God.

O’Connor took great pains with each of her stories, often to her impatient publisher’s dismay and frustration, and she remarked several times in her letters that she was only capable of  producing one good short story a year.  She refused to rush or to be rushed.

Now that may be ridiculous in the eyes of the rushed and rush-to-publish authors of today, yet her insistence on the highest standards for her stories has been validated and celebrated in spades by the test of time and eventual prestigious critical acclaim. Last year the National Book Award took a poll of its followers for the best, most significant of its prize-winners EVER.  And guess what?  O’Connor won the poll and ratings by a landslide.

But the plain fact of the matter was that O’Connor wrote for the ages, not the best seller lists, considered her themes of ultimate importance to humanity and viewed her works as her way of serving God. These  things can’t be rushed.

We’ll start with that immortal gem “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and explore what makes it work so well and discover why is it so revered by critics and readers alike today.

Whatever your faith, disposition or writerly ambitions, O’Connor’s short stories have much to teach serious writers, writers who want to write well, writers who aspire to writing Literature, rather than commercial here-today-gone-tomorrow fiction.

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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8 Responses to “The grandmother did not want to go to Florida.” Flannery O’Connor’s Mastery of the Short Story Form

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    Can’t help but like the old lady just for her attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lahowlett says:

    Fantastic story from a wonderful writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the comment! The more I read that story, and actually all of her stories, the more I marvel at her expertise, economy of words, and precision in creating that “single unified effect”–whammo! that the form demands.


  4. Lonie Fulgham says:

    Oh my, that was a good story.

    Liked by 1 person

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