To the uninitiated, the significance of Flannery O'Connor's Parker's Back can seem at once cold and dispassionate, as well as almost absurdly stark and violent. Her short stories routinely end in horrendous, freak fatalities or, at the very least, a character's emotional devastation. Flannery O'Connor is a Christian writer, and her work is message-oriented, yet she is far too brilliant a stylist to tip her hand; like all good writers, crass didacticism is abhorrent to her. Unlike some more cryptic writers, O'Connor was happy to discuss the conceptual and philosophical underpinnings of her stories, and this candor is a godsend for the researcher that seeks to know what makes the writer tick.
Flannery O'Connor put much conscious thought into her dual role of Catholic and fiction writer, and reading her written reflections on the matter reveals that she had developed a whole literary philosophy devoted to reconciling the two, and joining them into a single unified force to prove the truth of the Faith.
O'Connor observed a Manichaeism in the mind of the average Catholic reader, resulting from a conceptual separation between nature and grace in considerations of the supernatural, thus rendering fictional experience of nature as either sentimental or obscene. Nature imagery is everywhere in O'Connor, and it is often used to reinforce the negativity of the lives and mental states of her characters.
The novice reader of O'Connor may well wonder how her work, grotesque and violent as it is, would be considered "Christian" or "Catholic" significance. As to the, at times, extreme use of violence in her significance, O'Connor's literary philosophy allowed for the use of it in the service of some greater vision of spiritual reality. Heidegger was a definite influence on O'Connor, and ideas such as this, as well as his concept that essential truth...