'Between the house and the chicken yard' : the masks of Mary Flannery O'Connor /

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Sharp, Jolly
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Middle Tennessee State University
Mary Flannery O'Connor's personal idiosyncrasies and literary talents enabled her to don multiple masks that both concealed and revealed segments of herself as she desired. While O'Connor's personal and social masks were shaped by her Southern and Catholic roots, her vivid imagination and artistry fashioned her literary masks, allowing her to explore life's grotesqueness. Many of O'Connor's literary characters shelter features of her own disposition and purpose.
This study uncovers O'Connor's personal and social masks and then explores her self-identification with six characters: Enoch Emery, Nelson Head, Joy/Hulga Hopewell, Hazel Motes, Old Tarwater, and Rufus Johnson. It considers the manner by which O'Connor distorted traditional Southern myths to formulate her own sense of the Southern grotesque. It analyzes O'Connor's self-definition through her mentoring of other writers and concludes by highlighting the maturation of O'Connor's masks from her first published story to its final reworking late in the author's life.
O'Connor's masks emerge as metaphorical embodiments of her veiled autobiography. This study underscores the ways in which they illuminate O'Connor's regional critiques, her reactions to family, friends, and acquaintances, her insights into her own writing, and her successes and growth as an artist.
Adviser: Will Brantley.