A Late Encounter With The Enemy by Flannery O’Connor, 1955
The magic trick:
Establishing sympathetic characters focused on the wrong things
Flannery O’Connor is so good at creating characters who are sympathetic in their sins. General Sash and his granddaughter Sally Sash, in this story, are both focused on the wrong things. They find satisfaction in vanity. But it’s never a mean-spirited literary assault. We feel sorry for them, I think, more than anything. They don’t have a voice. They long for identity and recognition. So in fact they are sympathetic characters. Anyone can relate to that. And that’s quite a trick on O’Connor’s part.
“I was in the preemie they had in Atlanta,” he would tell visitors sitting on his front porch. “Surrounded by beautiful guls. It wasn’t a thing local about it. It was nothing local about it. Listen here. It was a nashnul event and they had me in it – up onto the stage. There was no bob-tails at it. Every person at it had paid ten dollars to get in and had to wear his tuxseeder. I was in this uniform. A beautiful gul presented me with it that afternoon in a hotel room.”
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.