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Cosmology And Southern Gothic Essay

2391 words - 10 pages

The question, “How did we get here,” deals with cosmology, the study of the universe. No one knows for sure how the universe works or how we got here, but many Southern Gothic authors, such as Flannery O’Connor and Edgar Allan Poe, use their literature as a way of expressing their beliefs about the clockwork of the universe. These authors use their dark and grotesque fictional stories to make sense of where we, as humans, stand in the universe.
In The Violent Bear it Away, O’Connor uses Francis Tarwater, a miracle who was saved by God, to answer the question, “How did we get here?” Francis Tarwater goes through his life stuck in between two completely opposite universes and is forced to ...view middle of the document...

“Rayber is abstracted--drawn up into thought--as much as he is disengaged from the life of the flesh. He wishes to live in the realm of pure thought, which is to say the world of the machine” (Peters 7). Rayber’s goal is to make Tarwater see the world from his point of view, where he looks at religion as superstition, while science and reason are the only ways to understand the mysteries of life. Rayber shares his plan of secularizing Tarwater to old Tarwater when he says, “I’m sorry, uncle. You can’t live with me and ruin another child’s life. This one is going to be brought up to live in the real world. He’s going to be his own saviour. He’s going to be free!” (O’Connor70). Throughout the novel, O’Connor uses Rayber’s attempts to bring young Tarwater into his universe of reason as an obstacle that he needs to pass in order to find his true purpose on earth.
While Rayber tries to pull Tarwater into his world of science, Tarwater’s great uncle forces him in the opposite direction, trying to make him see the world and live out his life for God. “Rayber emerges as a man of ideas only, a man unlike Mason Tarwater, who is made of ‘dust’ and ‘blood and nerve and mind,’ made ‘to bleed and weep and think’ (Peters 12). Old Tarwater believed that the reason young Tarwater was brought into this world and saved during the wreck was because “The Lord meant him to be a trained prophet”(O’Connor 41). Old Tarwater’s universe rejects the originality and simplicity that people like Rayber are using to justify the cosmology of the universe. Old Tarwater lives in a world where he preaches basic religious teaching, and concludes that actions such as baptism and prophesizing are what God put us in this world to do. Throughout young Tarwater’s life, old Tarwater has been feeding him these ideas of God and religion, leading him on a path to understand the true cosmology of the universe. As young Tarwater examines these two paths created for him by his unlce and his great uncle, he by the end of the novel makes his own choice about what path he is going to follow and what universe he is going to be a part of. He eventually steps into the world of his great uncle Tarwarter and realizes “that his destiny forced him on a final revelation.” (O’Connor 233). O’Connor shows through young Tarwater’s decision on the path of life he chose to take, to show God and the universe impact people’s lives in mysterious ways.
Flannery O’Connor displays the theme of cosmology and explores the big picture of the universe in many other of her Southern Gothic stories such as, The Lame Shall Enter First. “The Lame Shall Enter First is even more disquieting than most of O'Connor's works, and her protagonist's maneuverings for redemption are thoroughly skewed” (Gentry 37). This short story is about a widower, Sheppard, whose main purpose in life is to raise his only son, Norton. But he abandons his son while trying to cope with the grief of his wife’s death. During this...

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