Flannery O’Connor is one of the literary geniuses of her time. Everything That Rises Must Converge is one of her short stories — one of many — and a masterpiece.
If you are used to stories with huge or significant conflicts, like war and apocalypse, this story is not that one. It looks like a simple story but is profound.
Everything That Rises Must Converge Summary
We are introduced to a character who is reluctant to escort his mother to check in with her doctor. The setting is called ‘the South.’ At the time of the writing, new developments have been implemented regarding the inclusion of all raises in the country. The mother still lives in the past and has backward racial views. So, on this day, we follow Jullian and his mother as they board a bus and leave the house. Unlike before, black people join the bus. In fact, some of them dress better than Jullian and his mother, which makes Jullian’s mother uncomfortable.
This should be simple, right? We can guess how this pans out, right? But when you unwrap it carefully, a lot is going on. And that’s what this post is about. Let’s see some things you can pick from the short story that applies to life. If you’re a writer or marketer, this should be useful. You can also check some of the previous reviews on this blog.
A Few Things You Can Pick From Everything That Rises Must Converge
This post is about what you can pick from this story and apply in other areas of life. This blog has covered similar stories. You can read from the menu at the top of the page. Check under ‘reviews.’
So, these are the lessons from analyzing Everything That Rises Must Converge:
#1. It’s hard to retrain an old dog
Julian’s mother is an old dog who doesn’t change even when the world around her has changed. We captured this in the first paragraph of the story…
She would not ride the buses by herself at night since they had been integrated…
‘Integrated’ means the buses now allow all races to ride freely. So, this is Julian’s struggle with his mother. Julian belongs to the present, but the mother belongs to the past.
Were it not that she was a widow who had struggled fiercely to feed and clothe and put him through school and who was supporting him still, “until he got on his feet,” she might have been a little girl that he had to take to town. “It’s all right, it’s all right,” he said. “Let’s go.”
One thing I learned about the older generation is that they told stories using simple sentences, but the depth of the paragraphs and the story is greater. It’s like cooking a big cake and using some (intellectual) magic to make it small.
2. You can be insensitive when trying to correct a backward thinker
At first, I think Jullian is smart for not sharing the same views as his mother. But after the analysis of Everything That Rises Must Converge, I begin to examine the way he describes and views this older woman.
“Yes, you should have bought it,” he said. “Put it on and let’s go.” It was a hideous hat. A purple velvet flap came down on one side of it and stood up on the other; the rest of it was green and looked like a cushion with the stuffing out. He decided it was less comical than jaunty and pathetic. Everything that gave her pleasure was small and depressed him.
“Wait on me,” she said. “I’m going back to the house and take this thing off and tomorrow I’m going to return it. I was out of my head. I can pay the gas bill with that seven-fifty.”
He caught her arm in a vicious grip. “You are not going to take it back,” he said. “I like it.”
“Well,” she said, “I don’t think I ought. . .”
“Shut up and enjoy it,” he muttered, more depressed than ever.
Jullian’s mother isn’t any better for her racial views either. Here she said, ‘We have the bus to ourselves’ to mean there are no people of color on the bus.
“It must get the afternoon sun, ” his mother said. She sat forward and looked up and down the bus. It was half filled. Everybody was white. “I see we have the bus to ourselves,” she said.
What Jullian’s mother thinks of people of color is the same thing Jullian treats and thinks about his mother. A kind of irony Flannery O’Connor portrayed, a direction of genius.
#3. Nothing is more depressing than listening to people with the same backward views.
Jullian’s mother met another white woman on the bus, and this is their conversation:
“For a change,” said the woman across the aisle, the owner of the red and white canvas sandals. “I come on one the other day and they were thick as fleas – up front and all through.”
“The world is in a mess everywhere,” his mother said. “I don’t know how we’ve let it get in this fix.”
“What gets my goat is all those boys from good families stealing automobile tires,” the woman with the protruding teeth said. “I told my boy, I said you may not be rich but you been raised right and if I ever catch you in any such mess, they can send you on to the reformatory. Be exactly where you belong.”
#4. We live in a perception of class that might look different from other people’s points of view
Throughout the book, Jullian’s mother has a perception of her class. It starts when she talks about her hat.
She further makes it clear that she knows where she belongs:
She stopped and allowed her eyes to flash at him. “I most certainly do know who I am,” she said, “and if you don’t know who you are, I’m ashamed of you.”
All the same, the readers see something different — ugly hat, for instance. The other woman on the bus also has ‘red and white canvas sandals.’ Maybe these characters have a false idea of their status and class.
Have You Read Everything That Rises Must Converge?
It’s the kind of story with a depth that might not come out at first read until a second or third read. However, it stays with you like an experience. The author’s talent is quite evident.
If you have read it the first time, I hope this analysis of Everything That Rises Must Converge will encourage you to read it a second time.
If you haven’t read it, download it here: Everything That Rises Must Converge PDF.
And you should read my book, The Devil’s Ex-fiancee.