Everything That Rises Must Converge

Everything That Rises Must Converge Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Flannery O’Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor was a celebrated fiction writer, most well known for short stories that presented a lively, and often bizarre and mysterious, commentary on the American South. O’Connor was the only child of a committed Catholic family, a rarity in largely-Protestant Georgia, and her religious devotion remained an important fixture in both her life and her fiction. She would go on to study social sciences at the Georgia State College for Women and eventually receive an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Following her graduation, O’Connor stayed in the North, publishing a novel and a handful of short stories. However, in 1952 she was diagnosed with lupus, a debilitating autoimmune disease that took her father’s life when she was a teenager. She returned to her family home in Milledgeville, Georgia to live with her mother and manage her health. There, O’Connor lived a largely isolated, homebound life, but continued write prodigiously, producing some of her most celebrated work. O’Connor lost her battle with lupus at only age 39, but she had already created an impressive body of work and had become a beloved fixture of American letters.
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Historical Context of Everything That Rises Must Converge

In the century following the Civil War, states in the American South passed laws enforcing racial segregation known as “Jim Crow laws,” which sought to maintain social domination over black people. A ruling in the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson contended that segregated public facilities were legal, as long as they were operated at equal standards. In 1954, the decision Brown v. Board of Education overturned this precedent, arguing that segregated facilities were “inherently unequal.” In the following years, the integration of public places across the South generated a cultural and social upheaval and often led to violence. Integration on public transportation—particularly on busses, most notably in the case of the Montgomery Bus Boycott—became a central cultural touchstone of the Civil Rights Movement. Published against this political backdrop, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” both challenges the history of the South and pessimistically speculates about the possibility of racial harmony. Particularly, O’Connor probes the psychology of her white characters, offering a provocative vision of which white people, both young and old, well intentioned and not, might be able to assimilate to cultural change.

Other Books Related to Everything That Rises Must Converge

O’Connor is often grouped with other Southern writers for whom the culture and history of their region played a central role in their fiction. Particularly, she’s associated with the Southern Gothic tradition, a style that blends Southern language, settings, and themes with grotesquerie, supernatural occurrences, and bizarre and eccentric characters. In this vain, the work of writers like William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and Eudora Welty is commonly linked to O’Connor’s. O’Connor was also a devout Catholic and her work contains many of the themes of Christian ethics, like grace and redemption. In this way, her work bears resemblance to that of Soren Kierkegaard or Simone Weil, other intensely philosophical writers whose religious devotion guided their secular thinking. Walker Percy, another celebrated Southern writer whose works are filled with regional color and religious themes, is similar to O’Connor in this way.
Key Facts about Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • Full Title: Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • When Written: 1961
  • Where Written: Milledgeville, Georgia
  • When Published: 1961 in New World Writing
  • Literary Period: Southern Gothic
  • Genre: Southern Gothic/Christian Realism/Anti-Romanticism
  • Setting: American South
  • Climax: Carver’s Mother strikes Julian’s Mother
  • Antagonist: Julian’s Mother
  • Point of View: Close/Limited Third Person

Extra Credit for Everything That Rises Must Converge

O. Henry Award. “Everything That Rises Must Converge” won the 1963 O. Henry Award, a prestigious American short story prize.

Religious Roots. The title of this story is inspired by the work of a philosopher and Jesuit Priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.