Even their virtues were burned away

I recently finished reading the complete short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Her stories have always been a mystery to me, but I love her writing. Today I’m sharing an extended quote from one of my favorites, Revelation.

I’m also sharing some music I posted some time ago on my other site, dwpianomusic.com. The piece is called The Strongest Prayer I Know. The third “movement” of that piece is, in my mind, firmly tied to and inspired by this passage from O’Connor. It is the victory recessional, a cortege for all whose shortcomings and sufferings in this life are finally burned away as they climb through the “field of living fire…upward into the starry field…shouting hallelujah.” In my imagination, included (maybe at the very front) are the “little ones” I refer to in that post.

I highly recommend Flannery O’Connor to you, but be ready to be pushed out of your comfort zone.

I also hope you enjoy the music and find it healing in some way. The first “movement” is, indeed, a prayer for healing.

Grace and peace to you…

dw

Warning: O’Connor makes liberal use of the “N word” in her stories and you will find it in the passage below. She writes about racism, prejudice, and white privilege in almost every story, exposing them for what they are and showing how firmly and pervasively and subtly they lurk in our culture. I’m not saying don’t take offense at it; that would miss the point. I believe she uses it to show how offensive it is.

 

At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

At length she got down and turned off the faucet and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.

O’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories (FSG Classics) (Kindle Locations 9040-9051). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

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