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Flannery O'Connor was born on 25th March, 1925. She died on 3rd, August, 1964 and was an exceptional American novelist and short-story writer. O'Connor's writing mostly relied on regional setting and addressed the questions of morality and ethics. One of her short stories 'Everything That Rises Must Converge' is what we are going to discuss. The story surrounds a fateful bus trip that an arrogant young man, Julian, takes with his mother. The mother insists on her sons company since the bus system was recently integrated. The tension in their relationship comes when a black woman and her son board the same bus and sit near Julian and his mother.
In this essay, we are going to look at how the thematic concerns have been developed in the short story. This has been done satisfactorily with the themes being extensively brought out. The thematic concerns addressed in the story include racism, social class, love, fantasy and nostalgia. Let us look at these aspects individually.
Racism as a theme is displayed in the whole story. This is mostly by Julian's mother who seems to be finding it hard to live with the new laws of the integrated system. While, on the bus to the Y class, she says that the bus is all to themselves since it does not have any blacks in it. Another woman says," I come on one the other day and they were thick as fleas- up front and all through". These sentiments were directed to the African Americans and showcase the racist nature of the person saying them. Julian's mother says that the world is in a mess everywhere because the Negroes, as the blacks are referred to, were allowed to go anywhere they want. When a black man enters the bus, the women are seen to change their sitting positions so that they cannot sit near him.
They give each other knowing glances when the man enters. Julian is the only one who seems to tolerate the Negroes and even tries to befriend them. He borrows the Negro in the bus a lighter just to strike a conversation with him. He even toys with the idea of bringing home a black girl just to get on his mother's nerves. Julian detests her mother for the racial inclination she has and wishes that she would stop with the segregation. Her mother says that the Y class does not have their kind of people meaning it is full of blacks. While there she feels superior to them.
Social class is the other aspect that has been brought out. Julian's mother reminds him that they came from a noble family and that his grandfather had enormous chunks of land. This makes her feel so much valuable and superior to those around her. She forgets that was in the past, and they now live in a rundown neighborhood. She even has to worry about spending $7.50 on a hat and must ride on the bus alongside the African Americans, which she considers degrading. She believes to be in a different social class yet, she is not, and she sees Julian as very successful because he has attended a third grade college. This tells us of the issue of class in that area.
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Love as a virtue has also been brought out. O'Connor brings this out remarkably well with Julian's mother love for him. She has sacrificed a lot to ensure that he prospers he even takes him to college. We are even told that she could not fill her teeth that needed to be filled because Julian had to straighten his. She was even ready to return the hat she had bought to the store because she thought Julian did not like it, only his assurance that he liked it made her keep it. From Julian's mother, we can see her love for children to the extent where she does not discriminate on racial lines when it comes to them. She was very willing to give some money to a colored boy. She kept insisting after her friend on the bus "Isn't he cute?" Although Julian despises her mother on some aspects, we can see his great love for her at the end of the story when she passes out and he cries, "Mamma, Mamma!" while rushing out for help. This shows that deep down his heart he cared for his mother he also agreed to be taking her to the Y classes every Wednesday.
Fantasy and living within their own thoughts are one of the characteristics of Julian and his mother. Julian says of her mother that, 'she lives according to the laws of her fantasy world outside of which he had never seen her set off'. She still thinks that she has the former wealth her family used to have and this shadow makes her despise others including the black woman on the bus. She fails to realize they are wearing the same hideous hat, in fact, the black woman looks better in it than she does. For Julian, we are told as he was reading the paper in the bus "behind the paper Julian was getting absorbed in his own thoughts, this was the mental bubble he established himself in during times when he did not agree with what was taking place around him".
Nostalgic thoughts occupy Julian's mothers mind as she is always yearning for the happier days when they were rich and even longs for her childhood nurse Carolyne, she says there was no better person in the world like Carolyne. These are the thematic concerns in Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rise Must Converge, and they have been exceptionally developed to fit in the plot of this amazing short story.