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230Notes 7"Ecology in Arcadia," CoIQ, 21 (1972), 182. 8V«rgm Land (New York: Random House, 1950), p. 77. ""Visions of Battlements," Partisan Review, 38 (1971), 117. '"James Dickey, Deliverance (New York: Dell PublishingCompany, Inc., 1971), p. 32. AU subsequent quotations are from this edition and will be cited by page number in the text.»"Two Regional Novels," SR, 79 (1971), 471. FLANNERY O'CONNOR'S DRAGON: VISION IN "A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST" Daniel Waiden and Jane Salvia Pennsylvania State University Flannery O'Connor was an orthodox Roman Catholic and often insisted that religious concerns were central to her work. In a 1957 essay "The Fiction Writer and His Country," O'Connor ended a discussion of her choice of fictional subjects with a quotation from St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "The dragon is by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon."1 She went on to add, "no matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller." When O'Connor's first short story collection, A Good Man is Hard to Find, was reprinted with her two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear it Away, in 1964, the quotation from St. Cyril was used as an epigraph to the stories.2 O'Connor's country was the South. All her characters must encounter the dragon of sin, but the road they travel is a Southern one. In both novels and in most of her ^short stories, specifically Catholic concerns are submerged in the fundamentalist Christianity more common to the setting. It is this combination, along with the blend of black humor, violent action, and grotesque characters that makes O'Connor's work so startling. Two of her stories include priests as characters: "The Displaced Person" in Good Man has a priest who sees the transfiguration in a peacock's display, and"An Enduring Chill" has a country priest come to give counsel, but in neither story do the main Studies in American Fiction231 characters understand or accept them.3 "A Temple of the Holy Ghost," however, has as its central character a twelve-year-old girl who shares O'Connor's situation: she is a Southern Catholic who experiences the confrontation of her religion and her region and tries to understand her world in terms of both.4 This girl is not given a name in the story; she is referred to as "the child" when she is with others and as "she" when she is alone and dreaming. She is at the proper age for confirmation, the ritual in which a Catholic consciously and deliberately joins the church by accepting a blessing of the Holy Ghost. The child is a dreamer. She watches her visiting cousins from the convent school with interest and sees them as grotesques. When her mother looks for a way to entertain the two girls for the weekend, the child is "struck suddenly with genius" (p. 183) and has a comic vision of the girls escorted by the school-teacher's friend. This picture of the girls riding in "that car that smells like the last circle in hell" (p. 185) amuses the child so much that she doubles up in laughter, much as O'Connor said she laughed at her own stories.5 The child suggests another car, the taxi driven by the grotesquely fat Alonzo, but finally hits on a better idea for transportation: two Church of God farm boys who have a car. The older girls have their own ideas about cars; they call each other Temple One and Temple Two because they have been told by an elderly nun, Sister Perpetua, what they should do if they should be assaulted "in the back of an automobile" (p. 185): they are to insist that they are Temples of the Holy Ghost. This sends them...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 230-235
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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