Purple hats and threatened whiteness in flannery o’connor’s ‘everything that rises must converge’

Quan Manh Ha, Sierra Gideon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Among Flannery O’Connor’s stories, ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ is one of the most frequently anthologized. Although the story explicitly addresses the southern reaction to integration measures taken in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, critics of the story tend to gloss over the binary relationship between Whiteness and Blackness, the extent of White privilege, and the limits of Black tolerance. Although the story was published over half a century ago, it has contemporary relevance in America, where politics still intertwine with White supremacy. The alt-right, characterized by their neo-conservative and racist ideologies, continues to flourish under the banner of ‘protecting national values’ and mirror the assumptions of White superiority that Julian’s mother embodies in ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’. O’Connor treats White privilege and pre-Civil Rights racial habits as they exist in a seemingly ordinary interaction between Julian’s mother and Carver’s mother. As Whiteness exists only in relation to the binary contrast of Blackness, Julian’s mother defines her imagined status of White privilege against an imagined category of Black submission as she attempts to preserve her social status. The sameness she shares with Carver’s mother on the bus – a sense of self-worth, a commonality in dress, and a quiet alienation in her motherhood of a son – threatens her culturally instilled view of fixed paradigms of behaviour based upon outdated racial constructs of Whiteness and Blackness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-25
Number of pages17
JournalShort Fiction in Theory and Practice
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • American short story
  • American Whiteness
  • Civil Rights movement
  • Critical race theory
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Southern literature

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