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Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

The history of racial relationships has always been complex in the U.S., which has been represented and reflected upon in multiple works of literature. Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge” represents another stellar attempt at examining and exposing racial biases for their absurdity and offensiveness. Offering a slice-of-life narration, the novel points to the problem of perception as the key impediment on the way to promoting racial equality and removing the concept of segregation for the U.S. community.

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The short story starts with the introduction of Julian and his mother. Having recently graduated, Julian is willing to make a difference in the world and become an active member of the community. Beginning at a local shop, the story sets character development in motion as Julian is portrayed as a young and impatient man, and his mother as an ardent supporter of traditional values and her allegiance to the ideas that would be considered as quite conservative by the younger generation: “He braced himself and took her” (O’Connor, 1965). Nonetheless, the rapport between her and her son indicates that Julian is ready to forgo his disdain for her old-fashioned ways and her prejudiced worldview for the sake of his love and appreciation for her.

At the shop, Julian’s mother lingers, irritating her son. She decides to purchase the purple dress that her son considers to be hideous, although he does not tell his mother about his disapproval of her fashion choice. The discrepancies in the perspectives of Julian and his mother become apparent at his point, as well as Julian’s love and appreciation for his mother, for whose sake he sacrifices his good taste and suppresses the desire to critique her choice of clothing, as the short story clearly establishes: “‘It’s all right, it’s all right,’ he said. ‘Let’s go’” (O’Connor, 1965). Finally, she settles on purchasing a hat, at which point an important detail concerning her character is revealed. The expressio in her blue eyes is defined as innocent and being as if frozen in time since the moment when she was a child (O’Connor, 1965). The described detail gives the reader an insight into the nature of her stubbornness and allegiance to her beliefs, some of which would, later on in the story, be proven to be rooted in racial prejudices and the idea of segregation.

As the mother and the so leave the shop, Julian drops a line about him one day starting to make money, which indicates that, while being a graduate, he is still unemployed. Therefore, the specifics of his relationships with his mother and, particularly, the lack of authority that he has in her eyes, as well as the absence of influence that he wants to exert over her and her prejudiced worldview, are revealed. Afterward, as Julian’s mother decides to take a bus to the YMCA session, she asks Julian to come with her since she is concerned with the results of the integration policies and wants him to protect her. Despite Julian realizing that her fears are ungrounded and that she needs to abandon her way of perceiving African American people as an immediate threat, Julian agrees to accompany her: “She would not ride the buses by herself at night since they had been integrated” (O’Connor, 1965). However, as soon as they board the bus, a conflict starts to brew since Julian is seeking the way of teaching his mother a lesson and emphasizing the importance of tolerance and acceptance to her.

On the bus, Julian watches an African American man enter the bus and sees it as an opportunity to teach his mother about the ideas of diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance. Julian creates a situation in which the African American man takes a seat facing Julian’s mother, which makes her evidently uncomfortable. However, it soon becomes apparent that the African American man is unwilling to engage in any sort of communicating since he simply wants to read his newspaper in peace: “He immediately unfolded a newspaper and obscured himself behind it” (O’Connor, 1965). Thus, Julian’s attempts at encouraging the further development of the situation and the efforts to incite a conflict do not lead to any tangible outcomes.

On the next stop, an African American mother enters the bus with her small son. They sit opposite Julian’s mother, which creates another uncomfortable situation for her. While avoiding to establish a rapport with the African American woman, Julian’s mother seems to be excited about talking to the woman’s son. Julian’s mother’s willingness to overlook the issue of race is explained by the fact that she sees all children as equally beautiful and charming: “Isn’t he cute?” (O’Connor, 1965). Thus, Julian’s mother overcomes her prejudices comparatively fast and develops a rapport with Carver, the African American boy.

However, as Julian’s mother starts becoming increasingly warm and emotionally attached to Carver, being invested in communication with him. Carver’s mother becomes noticeably anxious and suspicious of Julian’s mother. Moreover, Carver’s mother appears to grow quite angry toward Julian’s’ mother. This can be explained by the contempt that the latter has been showing to other African American people on the bus, including Carver’s mother. As a result, Carver’s mother decides to leave the bus on the next stop (O’Connor, 1965). However, Julian’s mother fails to notice the frustration and discomfort experienced by Carver’s mother and, instead, focuses on the child, with whom she is apparently fascinated.

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As Carver and his mother visibly show that they are going to leave, Julia’s mother, being fascinated and charmed with Carver, wants to give him a present and offers him a penny. However, Carver’s mother, being humiliated by this gesture and perceiving it as the expression of Julian’s mother’s belief in her superiority, strikes her with a purse. After Julian and his mother leave the bus, the situation changes toward a much more sinister one. As Julian exits the bus with his mother, the latter starts convulsing. It soon becomes evident that she is having a mental health episode. Specifically, she is having a fit of epilepsy, which Julian observes in dismay since he is unaware of what must be done and does not know where to seek help. Being left without any support, Julian attempts to help his mother the best way that he can: “Crumpling, she fell to the pavement” (O’Connor, 1965). The narration ends at this point, leaving distraught Julian and his sick mother and creating a rather ambiguous ending. The short story ends at this scene, leaving the reader to wonder if Julian’s mother ever recovered.

“Everything That Rises Must Converge” offers the reader a scenario in which the tragedy of racism lies in the inability to embrace the concept of equality and the unwillingness to accept the notion of diversity. While the ending of the short story might seem abrupt and lacking resolution, it, in fact, emphasizes the problem of racism and racial segregation by demonstrating the difficulties in encouraging an individual to change. The short story points to the necessity for a change in the perceptions to occur as the first step toward starting the process of healing.


O’Connor, F. (1965). Everything that rises must

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