A View of the Woods by Flannery O’Connor (1957)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror March 29, 2016
We don’t normally think of Flannery O’Connor when we want to read a mystery. A View of the Woods is an ‘uncomfortable mystery’ and one that goes deep. Would we expect anything less from the queen of southern literature, Flannery O’Connor? This short tale is Christian-haunted, a human brutality with a demonic force. Characterization here is compelling and won’t let you close the book.
Mary Fortune is nine years old. A cute spunky little girl and her grandfather’s favorite—because Mary is just like the grandfather. But this old guy, Mr. Fortune, is driven by so much pride and obsessed with progress, the result becomes bloody and tragic. There’s no supernatural elements going on unless you recognize a visionary moment by the grandfather. But there is a whole lot of symbolism going on. The woods are often places of fear and vulnerability. In this story, we see how a person can closed his eyes to the ‘hellish red trunks that rise up in a blackwood.’ Viewing the woods is not all the grandfather finally sees.
The third time he [Mr. Fortune] got up to look at the woods, it was almost six o’clock and the gaunt trunks appeared to be raised in a pool of red light that gushed from the almost hidden sun setting behind them. The old man stared for some time, as if for a prolonged instant he were caught up out of the rattle of everything that led to the future and were held there in the midst of an uncomfortable mystery that he had not apprehended before. He saw it, in his hallucination, as if someone were wounded behind the woods and the trees were bathed in blood.
Watch for the color yellow symbolism here. O’Connor does this brilliantly.
Read the short story from Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories via PDF (scroll down to page 343).
Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, won a National Book Award for Fiction in 1972. She wrote over 30 short stories and 2 novels.
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