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The Collapsing Canary’ – the Novelist and the Approaching End: Apocalyptic Imagination in William Golding and Flannery O’Connor

Margaret Keeling

Lois Zamora in The Apocalyptic Vision notes that ‘as the Year 2000 approaches and we become accustomed to thinking of crisis in global terms, references to apocalypse seem to be increasing steadily.’[1] As individuals we are constantly reminded of the significance of living on the point of change between times, and also warned to stay calm in the face of the impending terrors of the end. The apocalyptic novel exerts a morbid fascination for us as a fiction which

    teeters between the conviction that moral confusion and social chaos have progressed beyond the point of return, and the hope that it is not too late after all.[2]

 I adopt a series of questions posed by Matty, William Golding’s saint/holy fool in Darkness Visible as an approach to apocalyptic fictions. Writing in a journal, characterised by literal minded and naive expectations of the confirmation of his visions of the end time, he cries, ‘Who am I? What am I? What am I for?’[3] I offer some suggestions over the writer’s ‘Who am I?’ in relation to the mode, and consider the ‘What am I? What am I for?’ of the text, by looking at the use of the apocalyptic imagination in the work of William Golding and Flannery O’Connor.

The adoption of the apocalyptic mode may be used as a stratagem to bring a sense of coherence to narrative events; to suggest connections between the fiction and the division of history into significant epochs; to utilise typical patterns of decline and renewal, or to make connections between end and endings. We need to consider whether such novels are merely a reflection of the psychological partnership between reader and writer in making sense of our world, and following Kermode, as critics, to ‘make sense of the way we try to make sense of our lives.’[4]

Writing in the apocalyptic vein allows the novelist to suggest a larger order and significance for events. By adding a sense of purpose to linear time such fictions bolster our sense of living in a time of crisis which escapes chaos through its perceived cosmic significance, and for which there may be a final resolution – in doom if not in Millennial hope. They suggest that as people in the ‘middest’ (Kermode’s term) we are ‘related to a beginning and an end’ as we ‘make little images of moments which have seemed like ends; we thrive on epochs’ (Sense of an Ending, p. 7). Socially and economically, we too live in a culture which also intends to thrive on epochs (year end, century end, millennium end) and which will commercially generate a heightened sense of an ending to do so.

The need to escape from the randomness of life into the order of fiction can be seen as a writerly preoccupation, rather than simply a concern of the apocalyptist. In his travelogue, An Egyptian Journal, Golding expresses this impulse to fictionalize, suggesting that it is as true of the historian or chronicler as the novelist:‘I sat in my bunk, therefore,  and tried to bring some order into this at least partly crazy world’ (p. 139). One of the frustrations of the journal comes from his perception of the shapelessness of ‘real life’ as opposed to fiction. We note how this comment in life reappears in his novels, particularly in Talbot’s metafictional comments on the randomness of his journal in Rites of Passage.

Zamora notes the way recorded history exhibits apocalyptic patterns of crisis, judgement and renewal. The connection between ‘historic disclosure’ and ‘narrative closure’ may create a tension within the text between the end of textual time and the coming of the promised end, as the writer literally writes against time to reach disclosure and textual closure at the same point. In some novels, as in Golding’s The Paper Men, closure comes before disclosure, setting up a structural irony which deflects back into the text. Is it only with the promise of future apocalypse, in the last text of the Canon, the Book of Revelation, that history and ending will completely coincide, and the significance of the whole plot of incarnational history become clear? But, conversely, the new beginning to supersede all new beginnings remains out of reach, and the text veils more than it reveals.

We find this tension between time and endings in Golding’s fiction, not only in his earlier ‘gimmick’ endings where disclosure affects our understanding of elapsed narrative time, but also within his apparently realist historical fictions. Fire Down Below closes with a sequence which echoes apocalyptic patterns, as one stereotypical moment of potential closure is in turn overtaken by the next – the end of the voyage (p. 259),[5] the destruction of the ship in fire and explosion (p. 280), the arrival of the ‘Fair Object of my Passion’ (p. 284), their marriage (p. 310), these are finally replaced by a dream which undermines the confirmation of the apparent assumptions of coherence in narrative and voyage.

Kermode considers that ‘literary plots’ will mimic a different apocalyptic pattern – that of disappointment over the failure of the predicted end, quickly followed by readjustment and the emergence of a new and different end fiction. Such

    peripeteia depends on our confidence of the end: it is a disconfirmation followed by a consonance; the interest of having our expectations  falsified is obviously related to our wish to reach the discovery or recognition by an unexpected route (Sense of an Ending, p. 18).

 Golding adopts this technique in delaying expected ends in his fiction. But Matty’s account in his journal of the disconfirmations of his expectations over the date 6/6/66, quickly replaced by a new belief in the judgement still to come, and his own place at the centre of things (Darkness Visible, p. 89–90), is also a deeply ironic comment on the processes of naive apocalyptism. Our final understanding of Matty as a prophetic visionary remains ambivalent, for the interpretation of his end as redemptive, comes only through the eyes of the pederast Pedigree.

Fiction attempts a coherence that events lack, and the use of apocalyptic devices is one strategy for creating a significant end. To see history as the unveiling of a controlling purpose suggests the existence of a quasi-religious ideological structure in the text, as its organisation suggests the concept of the End to which all endings point. In Kermode’s words, ‘The End is a fact of life and a fact of the imagination’ (Sense of an Ending, p. 58). In this respect, I suggest O’Connor’s use of the apocalyptic imagination differs from Golding’s in that the ends – for protagonists and texts, however monstrous – act as an ending, which encapsulates the End. In The Violent Bear it Away, Tarwater walks into the gathering night, consumed by a hunger that ‘nothing on earth would fill’ (p. 241[6]). He is burdened by his calling as a prophet, one of  ‘a line of men whose lives had been chosen to sustain it’ (p. 242). O’Connor makes it clear that the context for his passing through the Terrors and reaching the beginning of grace is within an extreme Southern prophetic tradition of destruction, judgement and violence.

Does this apocalyptic vision come primarily from O’Connor’s need to make a prophetic statement about her culture?  Her fiction may be described as dramatised spiritual judgement, which functions as the precursor to the hope of individual renewal. On the other hand, although Darkness Visible is Golding’s most noticeably apocalyptic novel, warnings of the decline and disintegration of the individual and society make a consistent theme in his work. But these are only two aspects of the answer to the ‘who am I’ and the ‘what am I for?’ of the novelist who uses the apocalyptic.

My title is derived from Walker Percy’s ‘Notes for a Novel About the End of the World’.[7]  He asserts the purpose of the novelist in this context, is to write ‘about the coming end in order to warn about present ills and so avert the end’ (p. 101). But Percy does not consider this as a prophetic role. Instead

    the Novelist is less like a prophet than he is like the canary coal miners used to take down the shaft to test the air. When the canary gets unhappy, utters plaintive cries, and collapses, it may be time for the miners to surface and think things over (p.101).

 Instead, he emphasises the novelist’s ‘insight’ – able to read the runes and express ‘his profound disquiet’ in his work. But as Percy admits, since ‘true prophets are in short supply, the novelist may perform a quasi prophetic function’ (p. 104).

 Zamora draws a distinction between the apocalyptist and the prophet, which may not be as firm as it seems:

    The prophet sees the future as arising out of the past … the apocalyptist on the contrary, sees the future breaking into the present  (Zamora, p. 14).

 In other words, the prophet focuses primarily on judgement, the apocalyptist on the birth pangs of millennial renewal. I suggest one of the distinctions between Golding and O’Connor in their use of apocalypse arises from these two complementary impulses.

Apocalypse, in Golding’s work, comes from his ‘disquiet’. In Percy’s words, it serves to express his ‘divergence form the usual views of denizens of the secular city in general, and in particular, from the new theologians of the secular city’ (p. 104). In Golding’s essay, ‘Rough Magic’, the ‘better thing’, which takes the novelist ‘out of the run of the mill’, is the quality of perception Golding names ‘a passionate insight.’[8] Although we must be suspicious of the extent to which authorial intentions have any relevance to the text itself, Golding’s portrait of Greenfield in Darkness Visible as an England in little, is contextualised by a conviction of contemporary society’s being weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Conversely, the central impulse in O’Connor’s work is the movement from spiritualised judgement to those moments of special revelation: the ‘mystery’ which breaks violently in her everyday Southern world of ‘manners’. She believes:

    The fiction writer presents mystery through manners, grace through nature, but when he finishes there has always to be left over that sense of mystery which cannot be accounted for by any human formula. [9]

 May, in Toward a New Earth, considers the use of the apocalyptic in her work is ‘a response to cultural crises. It grows out of that sense of loss that results from the passing of an old world view.’[10] However, O’Connor’s use of the mode may be primarily to challenge what she saw as the dominant humanist world view, epitomised in her presentation of the intellectual – Rayber in The Violent Bear it Away , or Sheppard in ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ – against a background of  devalued religious experience. As such, apocalyse denotes the incarnational principle of God breaking into human life; of the Kingdom coming by force. Here I note that May’s discussion of the title of The Violent Bear it Away is derived from the Douai translation of Matthew 11. 12, ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away’. Seen in this light, the Tarwaters are the ‘mad fanatics carrying away the kingdom from its lukewarm heirs’ (May, p. 141).

The term apocalyptic is often used non-specifically of any prophetic novel – utopian or dystopian – to indicate it has a certain visionary dimension. The text will incorporate many of the core strands of apocalyptic literature including patterns of disintegration and entropy, threats of imminent destruction, personal or social, use of numerology and typology, and the suggestion of a level of veiled reference to wider events. It will be constructed around these patterns of crisis and calamity, judgement and renewal, applied literally and figuratively to a society, or to a personal end. It may be limited to the process of disintegration without renewal. It may also demonstrate an elaborate structure of symbolic patterning contained within the linear sequence of narrative expectations, disconfirmation, and subsequent readjustment. As a text it will articulate its own significance, or suggest its mythic status, by either embodying a particular ideology, or more simply by its attempt to order our perceptions of our world.

We see the apocalyptic influence on Golding’s early fiction, fromthe beginning of Lord of the Flies in nuclear war to its final closure with the ambivalent rescue by the naval officer. Equally, in The Spire and Pincher Martin, he presents the individual’s end as personal apocalypse. Darkness Visible begins where Lord of the Flies finishes, with a scene of conflagration, ‘the melted end of the world’ (p. 13). In Lord of the Flies the conflagration is dystopian, located outside history, signalling the end of prelapsarian hope. In Darkness Visible the social and moral critique of sixties and seventies society is subsumed within a prophetic and visionary analysis of the nature of good and evil. To see the novel only as a condition of England novel, with social decline prophesying a ‘promised end’ fails to do justice to the poetic density of the text and its passages of heightened perception, visionary or grotesque.

Is Darkness Visible then an apocalyptic novel in its own right, or does it mainly use Matty’s visionary experiences as a critique of the trope? These questions may be answered by assessing how far the text’s apocalyptic concerns are derived from Matty, (in which case Darkness Visible will function mainly as a critique), and how far these are the concerns of the whole text. In order to argue for a reading of Darkness Visible as an apocalyptic novel, we must consider how the text engages with and uses some of the characteristics defined above through its allusive subtext, its sense of impending crisis, and its imagery of disintegration, destruction and renewal.

The opening of Darkness Visible is both located very precisely in time and place, and yet by implication, in a timeless and universal moment of disintegration. Golding takes advantage of the sense of impending doom at this point in the Second World War, to provide the text’s apocalyptic terrors – the ‘great fire’, ‘out of control’, the men who have gone beyond ‘saying how scared they were’ (p. 11). There is the chaos, the disintegration as ‘the very substance of the world … was melting and burning’ (p. 11). War provides Golding with both narrative setting, and a powerful eschatological metaphor of judgement.[11]

Grand Narrative
But this is only the opening of the novel, and Golding moves from one apocalypse to another through his notion of entropy – the personal and social disintegration of post war society. But the final end is Matty’s personal end, not that of society, for all Golding’s foreboding and foregrounding of social collapse. There is no suggestion of an ending in a social sense, and this is part of the novel’s own disconfirmation of the prophetic utterance. In a fragmented post war world, Golding locates apocalypse in the personal, not the cultural and political, just as notions of salvation/redemption in his texts cannot be located socially.

The apocalyptic dimension to events in Darkness Visible is almost too overtly signalled by the novel’s allusive network, largely based on the use of the Book of Revelation as a master discourse[12], and therefore implying a level of prophetic significance. In the opening apocalypse we note the description of the holy/unholy city, the many references to fire and the implications of divine judgement related to society. But in contrast, as the inter textual references in the final chapters again point to the Book of Revelation, the allusions are primarily personal – to Sophy, as the ‘woman in the Apocalypse (Darkness Visible, p. 236), to Matty as the great and stern figure ‘gold as the fire’ (DarknessVisible, p. 265).

This allusive structure is extended by imagery of destruction and judgement. Kermode notes that earthquake, fire and flood are recurring figures in this trope, and Golding’s symbolic use of fire, water and storm is evident throughout his work[13]. In Darkness Visible, the fire imagery is heightened, becoming conflagration and immolation, extending the range of potential reference from judgement (Sodom and Gomorrah), to cleansing (religious sacrifice), and not least, Matty’s prophetic status in appearing out of a ‘burning bush’.

The apocalyptic utterance is also distinguished by its reliance on elaborate patterning, and mystical numerology, and again, Golding utilises this in Darkness Visible. Matty’s journal shows his overriding preoccupation with significant numbers, thus articulating his naive expectations of impending apocalypse. But the wider text has parodic echoes of this numerology, particularly in its foregrounding of seven as a mystical number (with Matty’s name), and his Trinitarian interaction between the one (two single sections followed by ‘one is one’) and the three as a whole. I suggest this creates a tension between the serious mood of imminent catastrophe, and general foreboding, and the games with numbers, which draw attention to themselves, allowing Golding both to present Darkness Visible as a modern apocalypse, and to examine the simplistic assumptions common to it as a trope. In the same way, the textual patterning is highly overt – the two sisters, the two halves of Matty's face, the contrasting experiences of the ‘other’ in Matty and Sophy, and the opening and closing conflagrations subsumed into sacrificial fire. Darkness Visible may be Golding’s modern eschatology, but its self-conscious presentation is both mode and critique.

As we examine the concept of ‘naive apocalyptism’ which ‘projects its neat, naive patterns on history’ (Kermode’s definition in Sense of an Ending, p. 16) in Darkness Visible, we see the novel as Golding’s ironic examination of the prophetic text. A key characteristic is the lack of concern over any ‘disconfirmation’– if the prophetic message appears to fail, it is reinterpreted, spiritualised and re-ordered. Golding exposes this process through Matty’s journal entries. The promised judgement does not materialise, but Matty convinces himself of his relief that more time has been given for repentance, (p. 93). His enacted parables of judgement are also part of the related need for a satisfying and mythic explanation of the contingent. Both Sophy and Matty have the same need for consonance. With Matty it is in order to answer ‘what am I for?’ and with Sophy, it is to find an ending to purposelessness through outrage. Both relate to the kidnapping of the child as part of a preordained plan, in Matty’s case for salvation, in Sophy’s for destruction.

But Golding does not allow any sense of prophetic fulfilment for either perspective. The answer to Matty’s question is left uncertain – the child may or may not be of cosmic significance. Matty’s apotheosis is undercut by its presentation as part of Pedigree’s dying vision. Sophy's outrage is subverted; she is only a pawn for terrorist activity. Matty’s prophetic parables of judgement through holocaust are not confirmed by anything other than a personal apocalypse. Clearly there are two impulses at work here. The apocalyptic vein adds a strand of universal significance to an otherwise fairly lightweight plot, suggesting an underlying and supporting ‘grand narrative’. It gives the novel a system of impression points, suggesting and directing its double level meaning. By locating them in a controlling metaphoric structure, Golding provides a point of reference for the text’s own prophetic judgement. It suggests a level of coherence, the possibility of a totalising reading.

But the text also acts as an oblique discussion of the novelistic as well as prophetic desire for consonance, for the writer’s need to construct explanatory myths. Golding appears to be driven by the need for such explanations, and yet to recognise that

    in the second half of the Twentieth century one has no surety, no safe solid ground on which to     stand: one has to drag out of one's own entrails some kind of validity.[14]

 However much we question this intentionality, his texts struggle with the need both to question the nature of such myths, and attempt to create them.

With Rites of Passage, Golding’s apocalyptic impulse is less overt. The ‘Sea Trilogy’ is set on the cusp of historical, geographical and cultural change: from the Enlightenment to Romanticism, from sail to steam, from war to peace, from old world to new. The terrors of the ice cliff must precede the transition to the new world. The narrative structure of the novels around an emblematic voyage mirrors apocalyptic patterns of decline and disintegration (of the ship as a microcosm of society, and of personal disintegration in Zenobia or Colley). In this context it is unsurprising that the physical world mirrors the historical and cultural drama, and the Trilogy has its share of millennial signs and wonders. Colley describes one such in his journal:

    What I saw as I stood, petrified as it were, will be stamped on my mind until my dying day. . . . On her right hand the red sun was setting and on her left the full moon was rising, the one directly across from the other.[15]

 The voyage moves to an end as the texts move toward an end time, first in ice, then in fire.

In Flannery O’Connor’s novels the apocalyptic is expressed within personal crisis. Her protagonists demonstrate, as Coles notes, ‘a given centuries version of the continuing struggle between those who recognise and fear God, and those who have turned their backs on him in favour of themselves[16] O’Connor explains her calculated distortions as ‘returning my characters to reality, and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that nothing else will do.’[17] Clearly, O’Connor, as a Southern Catholic writes from a different conviction of the metaphysical, and from a concomitant spiritual didacticism. The apocalyptic is connected to the way she uses the comic and the violent to give an underlying coherence to narrative development, allowing personal apocalypse to become an ending which reflects the End. We will not like the way judgement and renewal occurs, but we will not forget it, for, as in parable, she uses ‘large and startling figures’ to make her ‘vision appear by shock’.[18]

 The Need for Grace
The Violent Bear it Away is one of her two novels, but as Hermione Lee notes in the preface to Everything That Rises Must Converge:

    Ultimately her plot is always the same: characters who are “freaks” because “they have no sacraments” – but whose cast of mind makes them particularly susceptible to ideas of salvation and damnation – are violently introduced to the possibility of grace.[19]

 The apocalyptic tone of the novel is set by its pervasive imagery. Fire, water, hunger, the harsh Southern landscape itself, are used to underline the spiritual judgement. The ‘Bible haunted’ Southern setting which draws on traditions of self confessed backwoods preachers and prophets  is the context for her dramatisation of the operation of grace in the individual. Tarwater, like Matty is called to be a prophet, but the development of the novel is centred around his battle between his great-uncle’s conviction that he has been ‘born again’ not once but three times, because ‘the Lord meant him to be trained for a prophet’ (p. 41), and his own determination to ‘pull it up by the roots’ (p. 196). Tarwater as a boy may not see any burning bush, ‘it had not done it yet’ (p. 41), but the novel ends with the ‘red gold tree of fire’ (p. 242) he has ignited in the woods to cleanse the place of his violation. He has burned Mason’s shack to get rid of the old man; but he walks into his future with the ‘singed eyes’ of the prophet.

Interwoven with the imagery of fire is that of water and baptism, and we note the connections, through the common Biblical imagery, between Tarwater and Matty’s unexplained and mysterious baptismal experience in the Australian bush. Baptism is central to O’Connor’s theme of grace, as Mason tricks Rayber to baptize Tarwater as a baby, as the ‘prophet to take your place’ (p. 72). Tarwater in his turn, at the moment of drowning Rayber’s ‘idiot’ son Bishop, finds the words of baptism ‘come out of themselves … just some words that run out of my mouth and spilled into the water’ (p. 209). As O’Connor implies, if the sacrament of baptism is real and effective then it cannot be an empty act, part of a devalued religious framework, but the point at which grace breaks into the individual life.

Tarwater accepts his ‘appalling destiny’, seen in ‘his own stricken image of himself, trudging into the distance in the bleeding, stinking, mad shadow of Jesus, until at last he received his reward, a broken fish, a multiplied loaf’ (p. 91). But the point at which he accepts the inevitable is after his own experience of evil through homosexual rape. Again in an image of hunger, his later hunger is then ‘so great that he could have eaten all the loaves and fishes after they were multiplied’ (p. 241).

Powerful as the novel is, O’Connor’s short stories are her most compelling form. There are no extraneous details and the narrative driving force does not flag. The enigmatic effect of their unexplained presentation of character and events, their use of everyday Southern life, and the clear sense of both hiding and embodying a further level of meaning, has much in common with parable. Inevitably, there are the heightened effects appropriate to concentrating the weighty concerns of The Violent Bear It Away into a small-scale model.

An initial comparison of ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ highlights the striking similarities to Darkness Visible, and The Violent Bear it Away. All three texts utilise the notion of ‘convergence’, of the coming together of characters in a preordained sequence of events, as ‘realism’ is subordinated to a hidden apocalyptic discourse.

The three main characters in the short story, Sheppard, Bishop and Johnson, a re-presentation of the three main characters in The Violent Bear It Away, are inevitably drawn together in a disturbing interaction, but remain alone. (In O’Connor this may be representative of the failure of community in a specifically Christian sense.) Again, we can see how the notion of convergence has resonance with that of Golding. The narrative structure of Darkness Visible draws together Matty, Sophy and Pedigree, but as the final section shows, ‘One is one and all alone’. O’Connor defines good through the intensely focused concentration on its opposite, evil: Golding is deeply concerned with ‘original sin’. But both writers share a common view of the disturbing nature of goodness. O’Connor considers that:

    Few have stared at that (the good) long enough to accept the fact that its face too is grotesque, that the good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive writing expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliché or a smoothing down that will soften their real look.[20]

 In ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’, Sheppard must ultimately confront his own spiritual blindness. He ‘may be good, but ain’t right’ (Everything That Rises Must Converge, p. 189). Obvious reactions to the normal perceptions of good and bad are overturned. The locus for the moral challenge in the story is Johnson, whose lame foot, ‘ a black and deformed mass’ (p. 173), also epitomises his interior darkness; ‘the black caverns of his psyche’ (p. 199) in Sheppard’s terms, but his soul in O’Connor’s. There is an interesting contrast with Matty here. Both protagonists are physically deformed; both shock and repel the reader, both challenge perceptions of good and evil but from opposite positions. Paradoxically, it is Johnson’s malign influence which gives Sheppard’s son Nelson a spiritual understanding of his mother’s death, denied him by his rational father. Johnson’s total conviction of the reality and spiritual consequences of behaviour make him closer to ‘salvation’ than Sheppard:

     ‘The lame shall enter first! The halt’ll be gathered together. When I get ready to be saved Jesus’ll save me not that lying stinking atheist …’(Everything That Rises Must Converge, p. 200).

 In contrast, Sheppard has ‘stuffed his own emptiness with good works like a glutton’ (p. 200). O’Connor’s point here appears to be that full blown evil may be more aware of its own nature and potentially more open to redemption than a half hearted materialism and rationalism.

Both Johnson and Matty’s particular vision demand a literal approach to the Bible. (Johnson eats a page of his Bible to experience the ‘sweetness’ of its words[21]). But what is missing in ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ is Darkness Visible’s questioning of the value of words and Word, of parable, prophecy or literary text.

Both authors use similar traditions of visual imagery. Darkness Visible opens with the child Matty’s miraculous appearance: a small figure dark against the burning light of a contemporary apocalypse. ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ ends with Johnson being taken away from Sheppard, ‘a small black figure on the threshold of some dark apocalypse’ (Everything That Rises Must Converge, p. 206).

Both Golding and O’Connor create their narrative effects in similar ways, and both do so using the particular characteristics of the grotesque through the ‘freaks’, the distorted characters who stand for our ‘essential displacement’ (Mystery and Manners, p. 45). Both texts suggest an underlying inner coherence, in spite of the dislocations and lack of narrative guidance. But Golding’s use of the grotesque never quite achieves the same sense of moral outrage, of values being overturned, as that of O’Connor. This in part comes from his more diffuse style, but also relates to the more exploratory nature of his later fiction and his less certain religious perspective: more ironic and ambivalent; less hopeful and assured. For O’Connor, the nature of the vision is never in doubt, and the apocalyptic answers the need for strategies to express her particular conviction of the need for grace and repentance in the face of spiritual blindness.

The use of the apocalyptic in Golding’s fiction demonstrates his ‘insight’ within a tightly woven allusive network and through an ironic detachment toward the prophetic function itself. In contrast O’Connor’s texts are constructed around the Southern prophetic figure, but also function within the tradition of prophetic writing, whether or not their use of the apocalyptic imagination connects or divides them, these are powerful novels which play on our need for a sense of a significant end which explains our own, and the texts’, endings.


[1]Lois P. Zamora, The Apocalyptic Vision: Historical Vision in Contemporary U.S, and Latin American Fiction, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p.1.

[2] Ibid., p. 127.

[3]Darkness Visible, Faber, 1980, p. 101.

[4] Kermode, Frank, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, OUP, 1967, p.3.

[5] Faber, 1990.

[6]  New York, Noonday Press, 1976.

[7] Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975, p.101.

[8]A Moving Target, Faber, 1982, p. 143.

[9] Robert Fitzgerald, Introduction to Everything that Rises Must Converge, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1956, p. 24.

[10]May, Toward a New Earth: Apocalypse in the American Novel, Indiana, Notre Dame University Press, 1972, p. 19.

[11]Golding also makes use of the perception of war as a catalyst for social change to imply a kind of millennial hope.

[12]See particularly the final section of Matty’s journal, pp. 235-240.

[13]See also Golding’s apocalyptic use of fire and ice throughout the Sea Trilogy.

[14]John Haffenden, Novelists in Interview, Methuen, 1985, p.104.

[15]Rites of Passage, Faber, 1982, p. 233.

[16] Robert Coles, Flannery O’Connor’s South, Athens, London, Brown Thrasher Books, 1993, p.144.

[17] Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners, ed. by Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1957, p.112.

[18]  Ibid., p. 34.

[19] Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1956.

[20]Quoted in Edward Kessler, Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse, Princeton University Press, 1966, p. 95.

[21]There is a subsumed reference here to Ezekiel 3:3.

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