‘A View Of The Woods’ by Flannery O’Connor

A View Of The Woods by Flannery O’Connor, 1957

The magic trick:

Brilliantly evocative foreshadowing imagery

We go to Georgia this week, which of course means Flannery O’Connor.

In what has to be considered an incredibly competitive field, “A View Of The Woods” lays claim to the darkest story ever Flannery O’Connor ever wrote. Its final scene will disturb your nightmares for weeks.

Which shouldn’t come as a total surprise. First of all, it’s Flannery O’Connor. You’re not reading this in hopes of a happy ending. But also, she expertly layers the foreshadowing and foreboding. Sometimes symbols and other foreshadowing devices strike me as heavy-handed – a writer writing too hard. But with Flannery, they are works of art. The messenger-of-doom image she deploys here is one of her very best, I think.

The old man keeps staring at the woods and imagines the trees “bathed in blood.” It’s beautiful and more than a little bit haunting. Certainly, it puts it in the reader’s mind that something bad is going to happen there. Something very bad.

And that’s quite a trick on O’Connor’s part.

The selection:

The third time he got up to look at the woods, it was almost six o’clock and the gaunt trunks appeared to be raised in a pool of red light that gushed from the almost hidden sun setting behind them. The old man stared for some time, as if for a prolonged instant he were caught up out of the rattle of everything that led to the future and were held there in the midst of an uncomfortable mystery that he had not apprehended before. He saw it, in his hallucination, as if someone were wounded behind the woods and the trees were bathed in blood.

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