Q. Summarize and analyze the story Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor.
Everything That Rises Must Converge Summary
“Everything That Rises Must Converge” is set in the tumultuous era of the American South during the early 1960s, a period marked by significant social upheaval and the rise of the civil rights movement.
Civil Rights Movement: The story happens during the Civil Rights Movement. It was a critical time when many people were fighting against unfair laws and treatment that separated and discriminated against black people in America.
Fighting for Equality: The movement was about getting rid of racial segregation—the separation of black and white people in public places, schools, and daily life. People wanted equal rights for everyone, regardless of their race.
Growing Awareness: During this time, more and more people started paying attention to and supporting the fight for racial equality. The movement brought issues surrounding race to the forefront on a national level.
People were challenging the long-standing norms of racial segregation, which led to widespread societal change.
The short story “Everything That Rises Must Converge” was published in a collection of the same name, “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”
Flannery O’Connor wrote this collection of short stories, which was published posthumously in 1965.
Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge” is set in the early 1960s American South. It is about racial tension, family dynamics, and societal change.
The story revolves around Julian, a recent college graduate, and his mother, a traditional Southern woman struggling to adapt to the changing social landscape.
Characters and Setting
The central characters are Julian and his mother. Julian is educated but cynical, often lost in his thoughts, and critical of his mother’s outdated views.
His mother, on the other hand, clings to her old-world values and racial prejudices. She is particularly proud of her family’s past status. The story takes place in the American South, dealing with race and class after the civil rights movement.
The Mother’s Health
The narrative begins with Julian’s mother needing to lose weight due to health concerns, specifically her high blood pressure. She attends a weekly reducing class at the Y.
However, she refuses to take the bus alone at night now that it is integrated, forcing Julian to accompany her. This weekly ritual becomes a point of contention and reveals the strained relationship between mother and son.
The Bus Ride
Their bus ride is a significant part of the story. Julian’s mother engages with other passengers, displaying her social grace and also revealing her condescending attitude towards African Americans.
Embarrassed by her, Julian withdraws into his thoughts. He wishes to escape her ignorance. The bus ride becomes a microcosm of the societal changes around them, which Julian’s mother is reluctant to accept.
A new, expensive hat that Julian’s mother has purchased becomes a focal point of the story. She is unsure about buying it, but Julian insists she keep it.
The hat worn by the mother is ostentatious and somewhat comical. It symbolizes her clinging to her past status and her inability to adapt to the new social order.
The story takes a turn when an African American woman, similarly wearing a hat like Julian’s mother’s, boards the bus with her young son. It amuses Julian, who sees it as a lesson for his mother.
His mother, initially oblivious to the similarity, attempts to interact with the child, showcasing her patronizing racial attitudes.
The Climactic Confrontation
The story reaches its peak when Julian’s mother tries to give a penny to a young African American boy on the bus, thinking it is a kind gesture. Julian warns her not to do it, fearing it will be insulting.
His prediction comes true. The boy’s mother, a large woman also wearing a similar hat, sees this as an insult. In a burst of anger, she hits Julian’s mother with her purse. This violent reaction is a shocking moment for both Julian and his mother.
It symbolizes the deep racial tensions of the time and shows the stark contrast between Julian’s mother’s outdated views and the reality of the changing world around them. This confrontation marks a turning point, leading to a tragic and unsettling conclusion.
After the incident, Julian’s initial sense of vindication quickly changes to horror as he realizes how badly the encounter has affected his mother. She becomes disoriented and increasingly ill, showing signs of a possible stroke.
The story concludes with Julian in a state of panic and regret, calling for help as his mother collapses. This tragic ending underscores the profound disconnect between Julian and his mother and the painful reality of a society in flux.
“Everything That Rises Must Converge” shows the complicated relationships within a family, the tough times people face as society changes, and the strong prejudices that were common back then.
The main characters, Julian and his mother, stand for two very different generations. They find it hard to understand each other’s views of the world. This story is about how significant societal changes can affect people’s personal lives and their connections with each other.
It shows that getting used to new ways of living and thinking can be challenging. Sometimes, it can be an arduous and painful journey. Julian and his mother’s story is a clear example of this struggle. It is about bridging the gap between old beliefs and new realities and the challenges of this shift.
Everything That Rises Must Converge Analysis
The story revolves around two central characters, Julian and his mother, who embody the generational and ideological divide of the era. Julian’s widowed mother is a product of the old South.
She cherishes her family’s past prestige and is steeped in the values and prejudices of her time. She finds it hard to accept the fast-paced changes happening around her.
It includes desegregating public spaces, which is particularly difficult for her to come to terms with. She and Julian take the weekly bus to attend her reducing class at the Y.
Julian, on the other hand, represents the new generation. He is a recent college graduate, more progressive, and aware of the shifts in societal norms.
However, his education and modern views have not translated into financial success or independence. He lives with his mother and is dependent on her financially, leading to feelings of resentment and frustration.
Their relationship is a complex mix of dependence, love, and mutual frustration. Julian feels the weight of familial duty and economic necessity despite his criticism of his mother’s outdated views.
Societal Change and Resistance
His mother, although loving and concerned for her son, is oblivious to the social changes around her and clings to her old beliefs and social status.
The story’s setting in the American South is crucial. This region was the heartland of racial segregation, where laws and customs strictly separated black and white communities.
The civil rights movement, gaining momentum then, sought to dismantle these barriers, leading to resistance and conflict within Southern society.
This societal backdrop is a silent yet powerful presence in the story, influencing the characters’ actions and interactions. The weekly bus trips that Julian and his mother take are central to the narrative.
These trips highlight the theme of racial integration. The mother’s fear of riding the bus alone due to integration forces Julian into the escort role, increasing tension between them.
The story’s title, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” taken from a concept by the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, suggests an inevitable coming together of opposing forces.
The story implies that societal change will unite people of different races and generations despite resistance. This convergence could be smoother and more peaceful. Julian and his mother frequently engage in conflict and misunderstandings during their interactions.
Throughout the story, O’Connor uses symbolism and irony to underscore her themes. The identical hats worn by Julian’s mother and an African American woman on the bus became a notable symbol in the story.
It represents a connection between two characters from different backgrounds. This coincidence is a stark reminder of the changing times and the fading significance of the old social order.