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The Violent Bear It Away: A Novel Paperback – January 1, 1960

4.2 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I am sure her books will live on and on in American Literature" --Elizabeth Bishop

"There is very little contemporary fiction which touches the level of Flannery O'Connor at her best." --Alan Pryce-Jones, New York Herald Tribune

About the Author

Flannery O'Conner was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her power.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (January 1, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374505241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374505240
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,836,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I think it's important to correct a common misperception that's been cropping up in the reviews here. I can understand how someone might come to the conclusion that The Violent Bear it Away is an exposure of, or an attack on, religious fanaticism, but I can say with almost absolute certainty that this was not the author's intention. Flannery O'Connor was a devout Roman Catholic, and nearly all of her stories (check out especially A Good Man is Hard to Find) carry a very extreme and uncompromising religious message. Everything connected with her - the other stories, her personal correspondence, and the text of Violent itself - suggest that it was meant as, crudely stated, an endorsement of fanaticism; or more accurately, a spiritual call to arms, and an attack of meek secularism. This doesn't mean that the book is only for religious people. Someone reading it from an antifanatic standpoint might well benefit, if only by discovering in the person of the author herself an example of the fanaticism they find so distasteful. A religious reader, though, should not be frightened away by all these reviews suggesting that The Violent is a plea for religious moderation. O'Connor's vision, above all, was radical and unconventional, and for either a religious, an agnostic or an antireligious reader, it presents something to think about.

As for the book itself, I only give it four stars because I think O'Connor's short stories are a better exploration of her themes. In the long form, instead of presenting a more nuanced view of the world, there is only room for more brutality and meanness; which isn't neccesarily a bad thing, but which isn't a good thing either. I would reccommend either of O'Connor's short story collections before The Violent, but for a fan of her work, The Violent is indispensable.
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Format: Paperback
This book is probably O'Connor's finest work of fiction. The story itself is much stronger than the more highly acclaimed Wise Blood, as are its characters. I find it interesting that one reviewer referred to disliking the grotesque characters, while admiring O'Connor's use of symbolism and metaphor. One who has read O'Connor knows that there are few characters in the author's opus that could not be classified as grotesque. As far as her use of symbolism, one must certainly recognize that O'Connor's characters were the most obvious manifestations of her symbolism and metaphor. As she herself said, when drawing for a child, one makes the figure overly-clear. Also, while this book, might seem to tread between rational humanism and religion, the end finds O'Connor squarely on the side of the seemingly tyrannical, certainly unbalanced uncle. The story is funny, full of observation and commentary, and endowed with the wisdom of one who has seen the world and is on their way out, as O'Connor was by the time the Violent Bear it Away was written. In short, no library is complete without this work-the paramount achievement of one of the century's greatest authors.
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Format: Paperback
The Violent Bear it Away is a disturbing example of the unique gothic tradition of America's Southern writers. The story centers around young Francis Tarwater, nephew of a self-styled/self-proclaimed prophet, Mason Tarwater. Mason's purpose for living is to prepare Francis for his own prophetic ministry. However, Francis has a very different idea of what a prophetic ministry should be like. Hence, the conflict of the story is contained in Francis's trying to divest himself of his uncle's influence, an attempt that the story interprets as rebellion, which the Bible states is as witchcraft. Thus, the reader can expect young Tarwater to pay an awful price for his rebellion
Like almost all of O'Connor's stories, The Violent Bear it Away is essentially a tale of how the supernatural intrudes and imposes its will on the lives of ordinary people. The story is further given a divine theme by frequent symbolic elements, such as Francis's hat being something like a halo, and another child in the story serving as either an angelic or Christ-figure. The story even opens with an African-Amerian man erecting a cross at a grave, a scene reminiscent of the Biblical Simon of Cyrene being pressed into carrying the cross of Jesus on the way to Golgotha. Occasionally, the supernatural is not fully explained by the story, and there are some unanswered questions when the story ends, the main question concerning the reality of young Tarwater's mysterious, almost Svengalli-like friend.
The narrative structure of the story is very interesting, as O'Connor allows each character to give his own accounts and assessments of the same events, a technique that is somewhat similar to that used by William Faulkner in As I Lay Dying and Russell Banks in The Sweet Hereafter.
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Format: Paperback
I am new to Flannery O'Connor. My introduction to her was through popular culture. She was mentioned in an interview with Bono and Sufjan Stevens adores her. And who hasn't heard of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," even if they haven't read it? Regardless, I don't read a lot of fiction, and am by no means a literary critic, but some thoughts follow.

I can't say why I started with this book and not "A Good Man...", other than that I wanted to start with something that was not as familiar. Having read nothing about the book prior to reading it (which is the best way to experience it), I came away utterly astonished at what I had read. To echo another reviewer's comments, sometimes it becomes excruciatingly painful to continue reading, but I was so drawn into the story that I couldn't put it down. I knew of O'Connor's penchant for shock, but there was one event in particular that I was absolutely unprepared for, and I'll let the reader discover what that was.

I'm very impressed with O'Connor's crisp style, which is intelligent yet accessible and capable of vividly portraying the internal transformation of her characters. She is also gifted in her manipulation of her characters' faults to serve the drama. One example of this genius was revealed when I found out why Rayber had a hearing aid--not why he needed one, but why the story needed him to have one. It was a masterful stroke.

My only complaint is that Frances, at age 14, seemed far more sure of himself and the world around him and what he wanted and didn't want than are most real children his age. In that regard, he was a little unbelievable, but it didn't take too much away from my enjoyment of this haunting, beautiful, and astonishing novel.
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