Flannery O’Connor and Downton Abbey


We hear many complaints about the prevalence of violence in modern fiction, and it is always assumed that this violence is a bad thing and meant to be an end in itself. It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially, and I believe these are times when writers are more interested in what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives.      — Flannery O’Connor

I am working through Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories this month. The stories aren’t enjoyable and they aren’t light reading. But I trust the folks who have urged me to read her and I get occasional glimpses of the glory that is Flannery.

Clearly, her stories are deep and infused with meaning. O’Connor explains a few things in Mystery and Manners. I came across this quote about violence; it immediately brought to mind the bad thing that happened to Anna in a recent episode of Downton Abbey.

What do you think? I’m mulling this over, differentiating violence in print—where you imagine what happens— and on screen, where an image is deposited in your brain vault.



3 thoughts on “Flannery O’Connor and Downton Abbey

  1. I’ve not yet seen the last couple seasons of Downton Abbey, but that is a very thought provoking quote from Flannery O’Connor. Hopefully others will comment here!

    Some time ago, I read an interesting book about O’Connor (plus Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Walker Percy), The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie. (Here’s a blog post about a review of the book, before I had read the book itself: http://jbbsmusings.blogspot.com/2003/11/reading-for-ones-life-ive-been-in.html)

    Later, I re-read the parts just about Dorothy Day. You many enjoy doing the same for the O’Connor bits.

  2. I have not read O’Connor but my daughter did in her senior year and more in the early years of college, and is a devoted reader. I can’t speak to her writings, but I do believe the premise of this quote. What rises to the surface in the wake of great sorrow, tragedy or injury reveals the essence of who we are, is what she seems to be saying – and I agree.

    In relationship to Downton, and this particular beloved character – I also agree. The exciting fact for all of us, and even this fictional person, Anna – is that our story is not finished.

  3. Well, I was so upset about Anna, but the thing about it was that it did not show much which is more upsetting in a sense because my imagination is so much more lively when left to its own devices (I guess, much like reading about it if it isn’t graphically spelled out). This world is a place of violence and to live as if it doesn’t exist is foolish. I think literature (and a tastefully done telling on the television) can help us make sense of our world. It also helps us to look forward to the day that these wrongs WILL be made right….living in light of that Great Hope.

    I’ve read A Good Man is Hard to Find and then I read the book of Flannery O’Connor’s letters. I simply LOVE her. I need to discipline myself to read more of her writings and to understand them. I also want to read the book you linked (M&M) as well as the newer book of her prayers.


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