Quotes from The Complete Stories

Flannery O'Connor ·  555 pages

Rating: (30.6K votes)


“The old woman was the kind who would not cut down a large old tree because it was a large old tree.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“He and the girl had almost nothing to say to each other. One thing he did say was, 'I ain't got any tattoo on my back.'

'What you got on it?' the girl said.

'My shirt,' Parker said. 'Haw.'

'Haw, haw,' the girl said politely.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Woman! do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? God!”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“She felt that she would have to be much more than just a doctor or an engineer. She would have to be a saint...”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story-just like the typewriter was mine.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



“Silly that a grocery should depress one—nothing in it but trifling domestic doings—women buying beans—riding children in those grocery go-carts—higgling about an eighth of a pound more or less of squash—what did they get out of it? Miss Willerton wondered. Where was there any chance for self-expression, for creation, for art? All around her it was the same—sidewalks full of people scurrying about with their hands full of little packages and their minds full of little packages—that woman there with the child on the leash, pulling him, jerking him, dragging him away from a window with a jack-o’-lantern in it; she would probably be pulling and jerking him the rest of her life. And there was another, dropping a shopping bag all over the street, and another wiping a child’s nose, and up the street an old woman was coming with three grandchildren jumping all over her, and behind them was a couple walking too close for refinement.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“The virtue of hope, in Enoch, was made up of two parts suspicion and one part lust.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“His plate was full but his fists sat motionless like two dark quartz stones on either side of it.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“With the energy he had conserved yesterday letting her dress him, he had written a note and pinned it in his pocket. IF FOUND DEAD SHIP EXPRESS COLLECT TO COLEMAN PARRUM, CORINTH, GEORGIA. Under this he had continued: COLEMAN SELL MY BELONGINGS AND PAY THE FREIGHT ON ME & THE UNDERTAKER. ANYTHING LEFT OVER YOU CAN KEEP. YOURS TRULY T. C. TANNER. P.S. STAY WHERE YOU ARE. DON’T LET THEM TALK YOU INTO COMING UP HERE. ITS NO KIND OF PLACE.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“In short, I am amenable to criticism, but only within the sphere of what I am trying to do; I will not pretend to do otherwise.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



“Mr. Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew that there were no words in the world that could name it. He understood that it grew out of agony, which is not denied to any man and which is given in strange ways to children.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Nothing is like it used to be, lady,” he said. “The world is almost rotten.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“To his mind, an opportunity to insult a successful ape cam from the hand of Providence.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Listen here, Mr. Shiftlet," she said, sliding forward in her chair, "you'd be getting a permanent house and a deep well and the most innocent girl in the world. You don't need no money. Lemme tell you something: there ain't any place in the world for a poor disabled friendless drifting man.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



“Mrs. Pritchard could not stand an anticlimax. She required the taste of blood from time to time to keep her equilibrium.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“The dead are a heap more trouble than the living.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“She didn’t like to admit it about her own kin, least about her own brother, but there he was—good for absolutely nothing.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“The horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



“Early in 1955 Flannery completed work on her second book, a collection of these stories which she entitled A Good Man Is Hard to Find. In January we sent it to press, having set publication for June. I remember our amusement at Evelyn Waugh’s reaction to the advance proofs we sent him: “If these stories are in fact the work of a young lady, they are indeed remarkable.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“He saw that for the rest of his days, frail, racked, but enduring, he would live in the face of a purifying terror. A feeble cry, a last impossible protest escaped him. But the Holy Ghost, emblazoned in ice instead of fire, continued, implacable, to descend.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“When he was four years old, his father had brought him home a tin box from the penitentiary. It was orange and had a picture of some peanut brittle on the outside of it and green letters that said, “A NUTTY SURPRISE!” When Enoch had opened it, a coiled piece of steel had sprung out at him and broken off the ends of his two front teeth. His life was full of so many happenings like that that it would seem he should have been more sensitive to his times of danger.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Who’s there?” the voice from inside said and there was a quality about it now that seemed final. The knob rattled and the voice said peremptorily, “Who’s there, I ast you?” Parker bent down and put his mouth near the stuffed keyhole. “Obadiah,” he whispered and all at once he felt the light pouring through him, turning his spider web soul into a perfect arabesque of colors, a garden of trees and birds and beasts.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“The trouble with you is,” she said, “you sit in front of that window all the time where there’s nothing to look out at. You need some inspiration and an out-let. If you would let me pull your chair around to look at the TV, you would quit thinking about morbid stuff, death and hell and judgement. My Lord.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



“If we forget our past,” the speaker was saying, “we won’t remember our future and it will be as well for we won’t have one.” The General heard some of these words gradually. He had forgotten history and he didn’t intend to remember it again. He had forgotten the name and face of his wife and the names and faces of his children or even if he had a wife and children, and he had forgotten the names of places and the places themselves and what had happened at them.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“No,” he said. Then he drew breath and said, “You got a nice place here. It’s a nice part of the country. I’m sorry if I’ve give you a lot of trouble getting sick. It was my fault trying to be friendly with that nigger.” And I’m a damned liar besides, he said to himself to kill the outrageous taste such a statement made in his mouth.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead.” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“Old Dudley would get out his gun and take it apart and, as Rabie cleaned the pieces, would explain the mechanism to him. Then he’d put it together again. Rabie always marveled at the way he could put it together again. Old Dudley would have liked to have explained New York to Rabie. If he could have showed it to Rabie, it wouldn’t have been so big—he wouldn’t have felt pressed down every time he went out in it. “It ain’t so big,” he would have said. “Don’t let it get you down, Rabie. It’s just like any other city and cities ain’t all that complicated.” But they were. New York was swishing and jamming one minute and dirty and dead the next. His daughter didn’t even live in a house. She lived in a building—the middle in a row of buildings all alike, all blackened-red and gray with rasp-mouthed people hanging out their windows looking at other windows and other people just like them looking back. Inside you could go up and you could go down and there were just halls that reminded you of tape measures strung out with a door every inch. He remembered he’d been dazed by the building the first week. He’d wake up expecting the halls to have changed in the night and he’d look out the door and there they stretched like dog runs. The streets were the same way. He wondered where he’d be if he walked to the end of one of them. One night he dreamed he did and ended at the end of the building—nowhere.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories


“I never argue,” Jacobs said. “That’s because you don’t know this kind of ignorance,” Rayber explained. “You’ve never experienced it.” Jacobs snorted. “Oh yes I have,” he said. “What happened?” “I never argue.” “But you know you’re right,” Rayber persisted. “I never argue.” “Well, I’m going to argue,” Rayber said. “I’m going to say the right thing as fast as they can say the wrong. It’ll be a question of speed. Understand,” he went on, “this is no mission of conversion; I’m defending myself.” “I understand that,” Jacobs said. “I hope you’re able to do it.” “I’ve already done it! You read the paper. There it is.” Rayber wondered if Jacobs were dense or preoccupied. “Okay, then leave it there. Don’t spoil your complexion arguing with barbers.”
― Flannery O'Connor, quote from The Complete Stories



About the author

Flannery O'Connor
Born place: in Savannah, Georgia, The United States
Born date March 25, 1925
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