Flannery O'Connor · 256 pages
Rating: (8.3K votes)
“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”
“He knew that he was the stuff of which fanatics and madmen are made and that he had turned his destiny as if with his bare will. He kept himself upright on a very narrow line between madness and emptiness and when the time came for him to lose his balance he intended to lurch toward emptiness and fall on the side of his choice.”
“He felt his hunger no longer as a pain but as a tide. He felt it rising in himself through time and darkness, rising through the centuries, and he knew that it rose in a line of men whose lives were chosen to sustain it, who would wander in the world, strangers from that violent country where the silence is never broken except to shout the truth. He felt it building from the blood of Abel to his own, rising and spreading in the night, a red-gold tree of fire ascended as if it would consume the darkness in one tremendous burst of flame. The boy’s breath went out to meet it. He knew that this was the fire that had encircled Daniel, that had raised Elijah from the earth, that had spoken to Moses and would in the instant speak to him. He threw himself to the ground and with his face against the dirt of the grave, he heard the command. GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY. The words were as silent as seed opening one at a time in his blood.”
“It was love without reason, love for something futureless, love that appeared to exist only to be itself, imperious and all demanding, the kind that would cause him to make a fool of himself in an instant.”
“The world was made for the dead. Think of all the dead there are...There's a million times more dead than living and the dead are dead a million times longer than the living are alive...”
“The boy knew that escaping school was the surest sign of his election.”
“You can't just say NO," he said. "You got to do NO. You got to show it. You got to show you mean it by doing it. You got to show you're not going to do one thing by doing another. You got to make an end of it. One way or another.”
“He said when he went to sell a man a flue, he asked first about that man's wife's health and how his children were. He said he had a book that he kept the names of his customers' families and what was wrong with them. A man's wife had cancer, he put her name down in the book and wrote 'cancer' after it and inquired about her every time he went to that man's hardware store until she died; then he scratched out the word 'cancer' and wrote 'dead' there. "And I say thank God when they're dead," the salesman said; "that's one less to remember.”
“Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Savior at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up. Buford had come along about noon and when he left at sundown, the boy, Tarwater, had never returned from the still.”
“Meeks was telling him about the value of work. He said that it had been his personal experience that if you wanted to get ahead, you had to work. He said this was the law of life and it was no way to get around it because it was inscribed on the human heart like love thy neighbour. He said these two laws were the team that worked together to make the world go round and that any individual who wanted to be a success and win the pursuit of happiness, that was all he needed to know.”
“That's not the way he told it, Tarwater said. He said that when the schoolteacher was seven years old, he had good sense but later it dried up. His daddy was an ass and not fit to raise him and his mother was a whore. She ran away from here when she was eighteen years old.
It took her that long? the stranger said in an incredulous tone. My, she was kind of a ass herself.”
“Its face was like the face she had seen in some medieval paintings where the martyr’s limbs are being sawed off and his expression says he is being deprived of nothing essential.”
“He kept on digging but the grave did not get any deeper. “The dead are poor,” he said in the voice of the stranger. You can’t be any poorer than dead.”
“And as for that strangeness in your gut, that comes from you, not the Lord. When you were a child you had worms. As likely as not you have them again.”
“Rather than remain a sealed jar, she sought only to pour herself out to others. Everything she did mirrored her faith. It was as though every waking hour of the day she was devoted to pleasing her God by serving others. This God that she worshiped consumed her. It didn't ask for a brief visit to a temple, or a small votive offering of food or coin, or a few prayers every now and then. This God wanted all of her.”
“If I write what I feel, it's to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant, because everything is unimportant.”
“back of the tongue and into the mouth, and when it came within”
“Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.”
“Children are caterpillars and adults are butterflies. No butterfly ever remembers what it felt like being a caterpillar.”
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