Everything That Rises Must Converge

by

Flannery O’Connor

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The Penny Symbol Analysis

The Penny Symbol Icon

Traditional white Southern culture was simultaneously invested in propriety and manners and in a racist and immoral understanding of the value of human life. Julian’s Mother’s gift of the penny to Carver, a black child she meets on the bus, encapsulates the incongruity of these values. Julian’s Mother hopes to act in a way that is befitting of high status—she has the habit of giving cute children coins because it is a noble obligation of the privileged. The fact that Julian’s mother doesn’t care whether she gives Carter a penny or a nickel suggests that she only cares about the symbolic act of giving. And, in considering any gift she could give to Carver to be sincerely kind, manners blind her from intuiting how Carver’s Mother might perceive her gesture. Julian’s Mother’s blindness to the possible reception of such a meager gift becomes a powerful representation of the patronizing attitude of Southern whites towards blacks. When the penny causes Carver’s Mother to strike Julian’s Mother, it suggests that the new social order will no longer accept such an attitude. Old manners won’t continue to cover up racism.

The Penny Quotes in Everything That Rises Must Converge

The Everything That Rises Must Converge quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Penny. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism, Similarity, and Difference Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus, and Giroux edition of Everything That Rises Must Converge published in 1971.
Everything That Rises Must Converge Quotes

Then all at once she seemed to explode like a piece of machinery that had been given one ounce of pressure too much. Julian saw the black fist swing out with the red pocketbook. He shut his eyes and cringed as he heard the woman shout, “He don’t take nobody’s pennies!”

Related Characters: Julian, Carver’s Mother
Related Symbols: The Penny
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Penny Symbol Timeline in Everything That Rises Must Converge

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Penny appears in Everything That Rises Must Converge. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Everything That Rises Must Converge
Reality vs. Perception Theme Icon
Family Conflict and Generational Struggle Theme Icon
...fish through her pocketbook for a nickel. However, she can’t find anything but a new penny. Julian warns her not to gift the penny, but she doesn’t heed his warning. (full context)
Racism, Similarity, and Difference Theme Icon
Reality vs. Perception Theme Icon
Social Order and Disorder Theme Icon
...walking away, Julian’s Mother calls out to Carver, runs after him, and offers him the penny, which shines bronze in the dim light. Carver’s Mother’s rage finally boils over at this... (full context)
Racism, Similarity, and Difference Theme Icon
Social Order and Disorder Theme Icon
Family Conflict and Generational Struggle Theme Icon
...was the whole colored race,” Julian tells her, “which will no longer take your condescending pennies. That was your black double…the old world is gone. The old manners are obsolete and... (full context)