being redeemable” (HB 350). In this assertion, O’Connor cements the idea that the violence in her works is not operating on a literal level; rather, she uses the violence she enacts on her characters to highlight their need for grace. Conclusion: O’Connor’s Redemptive Violence in Palahniuk’s Early Novels The violence present in O’Connor’s stories works to move her characters to moments of
Elliott 28 grace. The circumstances she places her characters in, however, are not just violent for their own sake. O’Connor utilizes the local color of her Southern heritage and grotesque circumstances or characters to highlight the depravity of all men and the incarnational presence of grace in the world. In effect, the violence of O’Connor’s works provides redemption for both the characters in her stories and her readers. She utilizes many realistic, yet strange elements in her fiction so that the redemptive violence in her works is grounded in concrete reality and shocks her readers out of the complacency of cultural faith. The violent means of redemption in O’Connor’s fiction effectively moves her characters from brokenness to possibilities for wholeness in a way that mirrors the messy and violent necessity of Christ’s crucifixion. Her redemption embodies the world and transports its recipients into recognition of the divine. In O’Connor’s poetics, violence especially provides a possibility for redemption because of the incarnational focus of her stories: her characters lead fuller lives because their physical bodies undergo a transformation that is representative of their spiritual journeys. Examining Palahniuk’s works through the lens of O’Connor’s poetics reveals the role that violence plays in the metamorphoses of his protagonists as well. Though Palahniuk’s redemption works toward worldly rather than transcendent ends, the focus of his fiction still aligns with O’Connor’s methods of redemptive violence, expressed through his own worldview. The redemption Palahniuk offers his characters delivers them from capitalist America and the preoccupation with appearances and possessions therein. O’Connor and Palahniuk have a similar redemptive focus in their writing, but Palahniuk’s redemption has a few key differences from O’Connor’s that must be addressed. First, O’Connor’s redemption occurs most often through one violent moment in her stories, but violence pervades Palahniuk’s texts. His characters have a single climactic and violent experience, but the text as a whole is wrought with other scenarios of similar caliber. This
Elliott 29 distinction is potentially a departure from O’Connor’s framework, but Palahniuk’s fiction is written over thirty years after hers and, with the increased access to violent and objectionable content in television, movies, and literature of his day, his violence is more pervasive as a result.