22. Awful Mystery: Flannery O'Connor as Gothic Artist

  1. Charles L. Crow
  1. Chad Rohman

Published Online: 13 SEP 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118608395.ch22

A Companion to American Gothic

A Companion to American Gothic

How to Cite

Rohman, C. (2013) Awful Mystery: Flannery O'Connor as Gothic Artist, in A Companion to American Gothic (ed C. L. Crow), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118608395.ch22

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 SEP 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 NOV 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470671870

Online ISBN: 9781118608395



  • Grace;
  • Grotesque;
  • Southern Grotesque;
  • Incongruity;
  • Irony;
  • Mystery;
  • Redemption;
  • Revelation;
  • Sacrament;
  • Anagogical


Among the growing array of criticism in O'Connor studies is the study of her Gothic artistry. Her stories combine awful actions and attitudes with the potential for transcendence so that mystery abides in reality. As Gothic artist, O'Connor reveals in the grotesque and the Gothic a mysterious potential for Grace. Despite her use of violence, horrible situations, and awful outcomes, O'Connor's best stories, written from her orthodox Catholic worldview, posit the possibility of Grace in a postmodern world that denies or diminishes the presence of God and the power of mystery. As such, O'Connor uses Gothic motifs to examine the mystery of insight resulting from evil, and the power of revelation resulting from revulsion – each concept lies in close liminal proximity in her stories forming a binary – awful mystery – that is a key to understanding her works' purpose and to the Gothic genre in general.