The writings and life of Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) have enjoyed considerable attention both from admirers of her work and from scholars. In this distinctive book, Susan Srigley charts new ground in revealing how O’Connor’s ethics are inextricably linked to her role as a storyteller, and how her moral vision is expressed through the dramatic narrative of her fiction. Srigley elucidates O'Connor's sacramental vision by showing how it is embodied morally within her fiction as an ethic of responsibility. In developing this argument Srigley offers a detailed analysis of the Thomistic sources for O’Connor’s understanding of theology and art.
Srigley contends that O’Connor’s ethical vision of responsibility opens a fruitful path for understanding her religious ideas as they are expressed in the lives and loves of her fictional characters. O’Connor’s characters show that responsibility is a living moral action not an abstract code of behavior. For O’Connor, ethical choices are not dictated by religious doctrine, but rather are an engagement with and response to reality.
Srigley further argues that O’Connor’s ethics are not systematic, formulaic, or prescriptive. As a storyteller, she explores the moral complexities of life in their most concrete and dramatic form. Behaviors that appear in her fiction such as racism, sexism, or nihilism are exposed as inherently irresponsible. Approaching O’Connor’s fiction from a moral perspective often better illuminates the dramatic struggle of a story, not because it offers a religious solution to a particular issue, but because the choices each character makes reveal a vision of reality that is either meaningful and sustainable or narrow and destructive.
Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art reveals O’Connor’s role as a prophetic novelist whose moral questions speak to the modern world with rare force. It will be welcomed by anyone who appreciates the moral or religious dimensions of her writing.