Monday, February 17, 2014

Elemental Characters

          O'Connor creates characters with many different personalities; in some of her stories she ties a character's personality to an element and the environment. Some characters have a personality that can fit a variety of elements, but some of her characters are truly tied to one specific element. Examples of this can be seen in A View of the Woods and The Enduring Chill.

           In A View of the Woods, Mr. Fortune is a stubborn old man who is full of pride and set in his ways. He is clearly the embodiment of the earth element. He likes things to be a certain way and is very proud of the fact that his granddaughter, Mary Fortune, looks very much like him. The story begins with these characters viewing a construction site, where earth is being dug up; Mary Fortune is completely absorbed "watching the big disembodied gullet gorge itself on clay" (O'Connor, 525). They are both stubborn and absorbed by the site of earth being moved. Through the imagery and personality of Mr. Fortune, O'Connor links him to the earth element. He also always talks about "his land" which his son-in-law is living on, so Mr. Fortune is very much a man of earth. He has so much pride in being a "PURE Fortune," like a man who knows he is made of pure earth without any other element mixed in. At the end when Mary Fortune decides to start beating him to death, he sees himself claiming to be a "PURE Pitts," so he grabs her by the neck and smashes her head on a rock three times. The last word of the story is "clay," so O'Connor places the earth element throughout this story.

            In The Enduring Chill, Asbury is described as having a "saturnine" disposition, which means his is gloomy and surly. He is also slow in movement and cold in personality towards his mother. Essentially, he embodies the element of water in the form of ice, which ties in perfectly with the title of this story. He used to live in New York where it was always cold and apparently that suited him just fine, since it matched his icy disposition. He has a disease that afflicts him with fever and chills, but the chills seem to be worse for him than the fever part; this adds to his irritation of being stuck on the farm in bed all day. He fails as an artist and writer because he is cold at heart and he cannot find the inspiration that would spark the creation of something good. His mother would give him occasional peace though. "When she was gone, he lay for some time staring at the water stains on the gray walls. Descending from the top of the molding, long icicle shapes had been etched by leaks" (O'Connor, 555). He even sees water and ice in his surroundings. When he realizes that he isn't going to die from this condition, "it was like a warm ripple across a deeper sea of cold" (O'Connor, 572). The very end is where O'Connor makes the element of ice the most apparent in its relation to Asbury. "But the Holy Ghost, emblazoned in ice instead of fire, continued, implacable, to descend" (O'Connor, 572). Asbury is icy until the end of this story. O'Connor links the characters to the elements in a smooth and natural way, which works perfectly with their personalities. This continues to the point to where Mr. Fortune is literally earth and Asbury is literally ice.

No comments:

Post a Comment