Jacob’s Book by Flannery O’Connor
What can be learned about Jacob and/or what motivates him, from the book he was reading when we see John Locke come crashing to the ground, after Anthony Cooper threw him out of the window. He was reading a book written by Flannery O’Connor.
Flannery O’Connor felt deeply informed by the sacramental, and by the ‘Thomist’ (St. Thomas of Aquinas) notion that the created world is charged with God. Yet she would not write apologetic fiction of the kind prevalent in the Catholic literature of the time, explaining that a writer’s meaning must be evident in his or her fiction without didacticism. She wrote ironic, subtly allegorical fiction about deceptively backward Southern characters, usually fundamentalist Protestants, who undergo transformations of character that to O’Connor’s thinking brought them closer to the Catholic mind.
The transformation is often accomplished through pain, violence, and ludicrous behavior in the pursuit of the holy. However grotesque the setting, she tried to portray her characters as they might be touched by divine grace. This ruled out a sentimental understanding of the stories’ violence, as of her own illness.
O’Connor wrote: ‘Grace changes us and change is painful.’ She also had a deeply sardonic sense of humor, often based in the disparity between her characters’ limited perceptions and the awesome fate awaiting them. Another source of humor is frequently found in the attempt of well-meaning liberals to cope with the rural South on their own terms. O’Connor uses such characters’ inability to come to terms with race, poverty, and fundamentalism, other than in sentimental illusions, as an example of the failure of the secular world in the twentieth century.