Sunday, September 15, 2013

If Flannery O'Connor Created You as a Character . . .

On Friday, I attended a training session for being a ReadingPal to a first grader, which I wrote about in yesterday's blog post.  At one point, I began to feel like a character in a Flannery O'Connor short story--and not the good kind.

Let me take a minute to ponder whether or not there's a good kind of character to be in an O'Connor short story.  Nobody comes to mind.  There's the stupid and deluded character, like the mom and the neighbor in "Good Country People."  There's the criminally awful, like the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."  There's a host of self-righteous people.  No, I don't think there are many admirable humans in the world of O'Connor's fiction.

Yesterday we got to the part of the training session where we were instructed about what we are not:  we are not parents, we are not disciplinarians, we are not saviors, we are not social workers.  It's not our job to fix the children, because these children are not broken.

And that's when I got a great idea for an O'Connor-esque short story:  a good, Christian woman decides to volunteer to read to a first grader.  The woman is middle-aged, a bit dumpy, not much else going on in her life.  She needs to feel like she's making a difference.

She expects the first grader to be delightful and innocent, and thus she's a bit blind.  From here, the story could go in many ways.

And then I had the horrifying thought:  am I that main character?  In an O'Connor world, I'd be headed for something horrible.

But I am not that character, although that character would have a bit of me in her.   Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I don't have to be that character.  It does seem to be a danger.

Once again, I'll make art, and I'll hope to avoid catastrophe.

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