Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner's Characters and Morality
Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner refuse to surrender to the temptation of writing fanciful stories where the hero defeats the villain and everyone lives happily ever after. Instead, these two writers reveal realistic portrayals of death and the downfall of man. Remarkably, O’Connor and Faulkner’s most emotionally degraded characters fail to believe that an omnipotent deity controls their fate. This belief directly correlates to the characters’ inability to follow a strict set of morals or value human life. On the other hand, one might expect Faulkner and O’Connor’s “Christian” characters to starkly contrast the vile heathens who deny the existence of God. However, these characters struggle to follow their own standards of morality.
The southern culture places much value on community, courtesy, and the standard of morality: the Bible. But under this facade of civility lie slanderous gossip, impure motives, and hidden iniquity. Faulkner’s character, Cora Tull, is a prime example of this. Though she openly admits that she has no right to pass judgment on Addie Bundren because, “It is the Lord’s place to judge,” Cora Tull later hypocritically states, “I realized out of the vanity of her heart she (Addie) had spoken sacrilege.” Cora’s desire for Addie’s repentance blinds her from seeing her own sin. On the other hand, Mrs. Turpin, a character in O’Connor’s “Revelation,” struggles with this same sin but in a different manner. Mrs. Turpin appears to politely encounter strangers with kindness but, alas, her kindness is corrupted. Though Mrs. Turpin’s sincere smiles and courteous small talk make her appear to truly care about others around her, the truth is that the words from her mouth do not convey the self centered thoughts of her heart and mind. Finally, a young lady sees through the hypocrisy and rages against Mrs. Turpin, whispering, “"Go back to hell where you belong, you old wart hog." This comment pierces Mrs. Turpin’s very soul and makes her question her way of life. Faced with the concept that she is not the respectable woman she thinks she is, Mrs. Turpin questions God and His plans for her life.
Traditionally, southerners attend church, worship the Lord, and look to their pastors for guidance. In fact, most people tend to place their ministers on a pedestal with a more rigid standard of morality. As sheep following a shepherd, a church follows its pastor with trust and conviction. However, Faulkner makes it clear that even the most prominent and up standing men may have hidden sins. For instance, Whitfield, the town preacher, and Addie Bundren conceal their affair from society. Whitfield longs for forgiveness and states, “I have sinned, O Lord. Thou knowest the extent of my remorse and the will of my spirit.” However,...