Flannery O’Connor Quotes

Mary Flannery O’Connor, 1925 – 1964

Born: 25 March 1925, Savannah, Georgia
Died: 3 August 1964, Milledgeville, Georgia

O’Connor’s parents came from two wealthy Catholic families but she lived most of her life in the “Bible Belt”. The family moved to a farm at Milledgeville in 1938, two years later she lost her father to lupus, the disease she would later suffer from. There she attended Peabody Laboratory School, graduating in 1942, she followed an accelerated program at Georgia State College for Women, graduating in 1945, then won a journalism scholarship at the State University of Iowa but soon transferred to the now-famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was living in Connecticut when she was diagnosed with lupus and given five years to live. She returned to Georgia and held out for fourteen years, writing every day (two novels and three short story collections) and corresponding with both well-known writers and many who wanted to become writers. She raised a variety of domestic birds but was partial to peafowl, having over a hundred of them. During the last eight years of her life she also was a reviewer for the magazine of the Roman Catholic diocese, about a hundred serious theological books were covered and the reviews were well regarded.

Flannery O’Connor quotes:

A gift of any kind is a considerable responsibility. It is a mystery in itself, something gratuitous and wholly undeserved, something whose real uses will probably always be hidden from us.
    Flannery O’Connor

A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.
    Flannery O’Connor

A working knowledge of the devil can be very well had from resisting him.
    Flannery O’Connor

Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.
    Flannery O’Connor

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.
    Flannery O’Connor – A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955)

Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.
    Flannery O’Connor

Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.
    Flannery O’Connor – Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969)

Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.
    Flannery O’Connor – Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969)

Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.
    Flannery O’Connor

At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.
    Flannery O’Connor

Children know by instinct that hell is an absence of love, and they can pick out theirs without missing.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

Conviction without experience makes for harshness.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

Discovering the Church is apt to be a slow procedure but it can take place if you have a free mind and no vested interest in disbelief…
    Flannery O’Connor

Doctors always think anybody doing something they aren’t is a quack; also they think all patients are idiots.
    Flannery O’Connor

Even a child with normal feet was in love with the world after he had got a new pair of shoes.
    Flannery O’Connor – Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965)

Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
    Flannery O’Connor

Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.
    Flannery O’Connor – Wise Blood (1952)

Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.
    Flannery O’Connor

Free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply.
    Flannery O’Connor

He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery.
    Flannery O’Connor – Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965)

I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.
    Flannery O’Connor

I am tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man brutal and sarcastic. The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism…. when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

I distrust pious phrases, especially when they issue from my mouth. I try militantly never to be affected by the pious language of the faithful but it is always coming out when you least expect it. In contrast to the pious language of the faithful, the liturgy is beautifully flat.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

I do not like the raw sound of the human voice in unison unless it is under the discipline of music.
    Flannery O’Connor

I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.
    Flannery O’Connor

I don’t think literature would be possible in a determined world. We might go through the motions but the heart would be out of it. Nobody could then ‘smile darkly and ignore the howls.’ Even if there were no Church to teach me this, writing two novels would do it. I think the more you write, the less inclined you will be to rely on theories like determinism. Mystery isn’t something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge.
    Flannery O’Connor – The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.
    Flannery O’Connor

I am very handy with my advice, and then when anybody appears to be following it, I get frantic.

Flannery O’Connor

1956, in The Habit of Being, Sally Fitzgerald, ed. (1979)
I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I certainly am glad you like the stories because now I feel it’s not bad that I like them so much. The truth is I like them better than anybody and I read them over and over and laugh and laugh, then get embarrassed when I remember I was the one wrote them.

Flannery O’Connor

1955, in The Habit of Being, Sally Fitzgerald, ed. (1979)
I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I distrust pious phrases, especially when they issue from my mouth. I try militantly never to be affected by the pious language of the faithful but it is always coming out when you least expect it. In contrast to the pious language of the faithful, the liturgy is beautifully flat.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I do not like the raw sound of the human voice in unison unless it is under the discipline of music.

Flannery O’Connor
I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.

Flannery O’Connor

in The Habit of Being, Sally Fitzgerald, ed. (1979)
I don’t think literature would be possible in a determined world. We might go through the motions but the heart would be out of it. Nobody could then ‘smile darkly and ignore the howls.’ Even if there were no Church to teach me this, writing two novels would do it. I think the more you write, the less inclined you will be to rely on theories like determinism. Mystery isn’t something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I don’t think you should write something as long as a novel around anything that is not of the gravest concern to you and everybody else and for me this is always the conflict between an attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times.

Flannery O’Connor

1959, in The Habit of Being, Sally Fitzgerald, ed. (1979)
I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.

Flannery O’Connor

Mystery and Manners, Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, eds. (1969)
I have enough energy to write with and as that is all I have any business doing anyhow, I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil.

Flannery O’Connor

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969)
I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies.

Flannery O’Connor

1956, in The Habit of Being, Sally Fitzgerald, ed. (1979)
I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it again.

Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being (letters, published 1979)
I have tried imagining that the single peacock I see before me is the only one I have, but then one comes to join him, another flies off the roof, four or five crash out of the crepe-myrtle hedge; from the pond one screams and from the barn I hear the dairyman denouncing another that has got into the cow-feed. My kin are given to such phrases as, ‘Let’s face it.’

Flannery O’Connor

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