In literature, meaning of a piece of writing is derived through the use of symbolism. Symbolism is the art of using an object or an incident to represent a concept in the piece of literature. Normally, an object or incident represents the same theme or concept throughout a piece of literature, but it may as well represent another completely different concept or theme in another piece; although, ciphers tend to have the same interpretation in most of the literary works. Foster argues that food in a literary work represents a theme, and also, it causes a change in the flow of the story. Also, he argues that violence is used a lot in pieces of literature.
Flannery O’Connor’s Story
In Flannery O’Connor’s story, Everything That Rises Must Converge, these two concepts are evident. Flannery writes a story of Julian and his mother, a widow who dislikes the colored. Julian’s mother views herself so highly because she has managed to take him to college, despite being widow. She seeks to be regarded as highly as she regards herself because of this fact (Flannery 520). She seems to exhibit hatred if this regard and respect are not shown. According to her, the blacks have less capacity and reasoning compared with the whites. The incident explored in this story unfolds when Julian and his mother were in a bus heading home. Since she claimed to love black children as they were beautiful, she wanted to give a penny to a black child who was with his mother. In general, it can be seen from the story that there was continued unease between the whites and the blacks (Flannery 523). The whites seem to have an attitude towards the blacks compelling them to be cruel and brutal. As a result of this ice between the two races, when Julian’s mother offered the child a penny the woman knocked her down, which caused her death (Flannery 529). The communion incident in this story is the offering of the penny by Julian’s mother that earned her a knock down resulting in her death. From the unfolding of the story as briefed above, it is clear that violence used in the story resulted in death. The concept of violence as used in this story shows that there is existing brutality between the two races. The cause of the violence act that resulted in death is not justified; therefore, it can be seen that there are many underlying factors in the relationship between the two races.
Two Concepts of Meals and Violence
In Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People, the two concepts of meals and violence are exhibited as well. The story unfolds in the family of Mrs. Hopewell, her daughter Joy (Hulga), and their servants Mr. and Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Hopewell is a divorcee, while her daughter has an artificial leg, which she acquired after an accident during hunting when she was ten (Flannery 507). Joy also known as Hulga has a PhD in psychology, though she is very reserved, may be because of her leg and poor health. Joy has a medical problem and the doctors said she might live till 45, if she is taken care of properly. They get a visitor who calls himself Pointer. He presents himself as a Bible seller and covers as a country person; which reflects the title of the story. Mrs. Hopewell likes country people since she thinks they are genuine and uncorrupted. Pointer also expresses his problems in search for sympathy. At first, Mrs. Hopewell was reluctant to listen to all he had to say, but once he accepted her offer to join them for dinner, she had to listen (Flannery 510). He explained his humble background and his added afflictions and eventually, won the sympathy of Mrs. Hopewell. During the meal, Hulga was resilient to his gazes and compliments towards her. When Pointer was leaving the house, he found Hulga on the gateway, and they had a conversation. From this text, it is evident that the meal the three shared at dinner helped to build their relationship and built trust. Although Mrs. Hopewell was so bored of the tales the boy was giving, she contained herself and listened.
The following day Pointer came and went out with Hulga as they had decided the previous day (Flannery 513). They took a walk together to the barn, where they, according to Hulga, were to spend time together enjoying each other’s company as they seemed to have similar misfortunes. At the barn, they went up to find a better place to rest. Here, Pointer gets a bottle of wine which he had carried with him in his valise that he presumably used for carrying the Bibles. He gets the bottle out only after having removed the artificial leg from Hulga’s knee. Pointer pesters Hulga to take from the bottle, but she insists on getting her leg back. He pushes it farther, so that she cannot reach it being fully dependent on him. He forces her to drink from the bottle, then pockets her artificial leg in the valise and locks it (Flannery 515). She tries to persuade him to give her leg back, but he disappears beneath the roof on which they were sitting. In this case, the communion of sharing alcohol signifies the loss of trust, and an evil scheme that was underlying is revealed. Violence is also evident in the incident because Pointer leaves Hulga without any means of getting out of the barn (Flannery 517). Violence can also be observed when Pointer takes the artificial leg, as he takes her glasses as well leaving her completely helpless. It was very inhuman of him. The meal, at this point of the story, leaves the characters as enemies, not the friends they were while going to have a walk in the barn.
In conclusion, the author, Flannery O’Connor, in his two stories has successfully developed the theme of violence as well as the symbolism of food. He clearly outlines the impacts of the meals that are taken, and what they lead to after the communion. As seen in the two stories, the meals that are shared by characters represent, the beliefs and intentions that have been there. From the first story, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Flannery presents the penny that Julian’s mother wishes to give as the contempt that exists between the whites and blacks. In the second story, Good Country People, the first meal represents the good faith Mrs. Hopewell has in the country people, while the second meal represents the evil intentions that people have on the physically challenged. Flannery through the unfolding of his literary work proves Foster’s arguments that violence originates from experience but not the immediate causes.