Flannery O'Connor stories: Spiritually immature?


I have heard from critics of O’Connor that claim her stories falsely use theology of suffering with grace as a way to justify using alot of violence and disturbing content in her stories.

Some will even say it is a sin to put disturbing imagery in one’s mind, even if the goal is to show the truth of suffering with grace. They will counter the argument that the bible is full of grotesque events, including the crucifixion of Christ, but those weren’t entertainment. They were historical events.

Some have even said that those who rely on her stories to get a better theological understanding of things are “spiritually immature”, because a more mature person would only focus on the true, the good, and the beautiful. They already know that there is sin and ugliness in the world. Having stories that portray it is only causing more damage. “Using the dark” is just a cheap way to satisfy base desires while at the same time, yearning for something spiritual.

So now this has me scrupulous when I engage in fiction similar to O’Connor.

Are the above complaints legit, or are their holes in their arguments?

These question of mine came after I read this blog from an O’Connor critic and the comments section of that blog.


I think Flannery wrote real life and reveals the way God works in our lives and sometimes our behavior is harsh and ugly and so are circumstances outside of our control at times. This is what she saw and imagined and wrote her way of seeing Gods love penetrating everything.


It’s not “immature” to read works that describe the world as it is.




Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.

-St. John Paul II, Letter to Artists.

No. It’s not immature. It’s certainly not sinful. Don’t listen to those people saying that. Unfortunately there are many out there who confuse their own personal tastes with objective morality.

If violent or grotesque imagery is too disturbing for you, or if you don’t get any enjoyment or edification from it, then by all means, avoid it. But that doesn’t mean it’s inherently inferior to other art or that it’s sinful like this person claims.


The world’s a brutal place. Do those critics think everything in literature has to be sunshine and rainbows?


My own spiritual director had me read Flannery O’Connor’s stories as part of my spiritual reading. I neither think of them as spiritually immature nor particularly violent, especially in this day and age. It’s simply another way of perceiving God’s grace which is freely given and given to all human beings, even the most unlikely of people. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but it sounds like sources that are not Catholic- and they might very well have troubles with the notion of suffering, grace, and the kind of characters O’Connor uses to make her point.


I believe Joseph Pearce would have an answer to those critics.


I love Flannery O’Connor. I want to write dark literature. I do not believe most people are as honest, selfless, etc. As they claim to be. I think we are all self-righteous, petty, annoying, violent and very blind to own faults.

closed #9

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.