Short Story Study: The Geranium by Flannery O’Connor

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There is a feeling of foreboding that is contained within certain stories that is deeply affecting to any reader prepared to encounter his or her own emotions. The most poignant example remains The Catcher in the Rye. Flannery O’Connor’s first published story, The Geranium, creates a similar feeling. This is fascinating upon reflection, due to vast difference in time that you spend with each character. You are enchanted with Holden Caulfield from the start of the book, but after 200 pages, you are obsessed with his plight. In The Geranium, Old Dudley is someone you only spend a few pages with, yet find yourself interested in.

I cannot imagine what a reader in the 1940’s would think about Old Dudley, but the person O’Connor creates him to be is a person who is difficult to imagine existing in today’s society. As a result you must approach him beyond his words, lest you simply see an old racist who is out of touch.

What I really see in Old Dudley is a person that is reflection of what we all are destined to become: Left behind. To quote The Simpsons:

I was with it once! And then they changed what it was! And now what I’m with isn’t it and what’s it seems weird and scary to me! And it’ll happen to you!

I’m not here in any way attempting to defend Old Dudley, but it is a mistake to not realize he is what we all become. His views shaped by ignorance and repetition of the same. What is the geranium except a metaphor for familiarity and Old Dudley, himself (and one cannot fail to notice O’Connor’s shaping of the geranium as sickly and unhealthy), unknowingly waiting for the world to knock it off it’s perch and continue spinning on as if nothing as happened.

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