Response Journal for "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor

Essay by strawberry_qteeHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 2003

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Flannery O'Connor's "Everything that Rises Must Converge" tells the story of a middle-aged white woman, who is the descendant of a southern aristocratic slave-holding family. Mrs. Chestny is on a journey to the YWCA to attend a "reducing class" designed to lower her blood pressure. She insists that her son Julian, a supposed intellectual, educated at "only a third-rate college", and hypocritically consumed with contempt for his mother's racial prejudice, escort her to the Y. She requests this of her son simply because the city bus has been recently integrated.

Julian's character appears to be overcome by hatred for his mother's racial bigotry and attachment to her pretentious past. Mrs. Chestny maintains that, "you remain who you are," and escapes into a world where her family name is still defined by her grandfather and his plantation of two hundred slaves. Mrs. Chestny personifies everything Julian claims to hate.

Julian's hatred towards his mother, his artificial independence from her, and his fixation on his own false liberalism, are in fact, blatant contradictions to what he considers himself to be--"free of prejudice and unafraid to face the facts."

Julian prides himself on his open-minded, democratic approach, yet he does not seem to hold any real sympathy or understanding of African Americans. The manner in which he views the situation gives the impression that his attitude is condescending rather than enlightened. He wishes to strike up conversation only with the "well dressed negro" that "carried a briefcase." Julian fails to search for a way to improve the circumstances that befall him, and instead attempts to use the black man in a plot to get revenge on his mother. He hopes to one day teach his mother a lesson either by befriending a Negro lawyer or professor and bringing them home,