The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O'Connor, Farrar Straus & Cudahy, 1960, 243 pp
I just didn't like this very much. I have liked Flannery O'Connor's earlier novel Wise Blood and her story collection A Good Man Is Hard To Find, because of the way she digs deep into evil.
I don't mind dark tales. In fact, I seek them out. But the main character, Tarwater, orphan raised in the backcountry by a truly insane fundamentalist great-uncle, is so unrelievedly screwed up, so utterly devoid of humanity. The surrounding characters do not fare much better.
Some readers and reviewers found humor and satire here. I was waiting for it, looking for it; I didn't find any. A battle between Tarwater and his uncle Rayber concerns the baptism of Rayber's idiot son. Tarwater wins through a hideous scene of violence.
"The violent bear it away" is a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11, verse 12, according to the frontispiece. In all the versions of the Bible on my shelves it is written, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force." Well, if she was writing a parable of Tarwater trying to take the kingdom of heaven by force, she succeeded.
It could be that because I was not raised Catholic nor in the South, I am missing something. It could be because I see heaven and hell side by side in the world, not somewhere or sometime else. I wish I could talk to Flannery O'Connor. I guess I will have to read her collected letters and her biography.