Literature Study GuidesEverything That Rises Must Converge

Everything That Rises Must Converge | Study Guide

Flannery O'Connor

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Flannery O'Connor

Year Published



Short Stories


Comedy, Fiction, Religion

At a Glance

Flannery O'Connor, considered by many to be the best American short-story writer of the 20th century, is lauded mostly for her so-called Southern Gothic style and use of the grotesque. However, a more nuanced view is that her fiction brilliantly unmasks the human ego, dissecting its innumerable layers and demonstrating how self-delusion is part and parcel of a human mind. O'Connor is merciless in unfolding this view, and her stories are not quickly or easily forgotten. These nine short works constitute O'Connor's last literary output. She put the finishing touches on the collection while dying of lupus, a painful autoimmune disease. They are arguably her best stories, where she portrays a fallen world through the lens of her austere Catholic faith and philosophy—which she herself called medieval. In this fallen world, sinful human beings are like the incarnated Christ, in that the body and the material world are the vehicles through which God bestows grace. The reader does not have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate these stories, each one a little gem written in highly polished and pared language. O'Connor forces readers to look into the heart of human darkness. She ultimately leaves it up to them to determine whether it is possible for an individual to rise and converge at the omega point referred to in the title.

Perspective and Narrator

All nine stories are told by a third-person narrator, usually focusing on the protagonist's point of view. The author uses verbal irony to create a tone of humor and sarcasm, resulting in a deliberate distance between the narrator and characters. The tone allows the narrator to judge the characters and highlights inconsistencies in what they may say or think about themselves versus how they appear to the reader. The effects are often comedic, in the sense of tragicomedy or black humor. Black humor treats serious, painful, or tragic events with inappropriate lightness for the purpose of creating comedy or imposing an alternative view on the subject matter at hand.


The stories in the collection Everything That Rises Must Converge are narrated primarily in the past tense.

About the Title

The title Everything That Rises Must Converge comes from a remark made by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1888–1955), a Jesuit priest, paleontologist, and strong supporter of the theory of evolution. As a theologian, he believed evolution had a theological purpose: the perfection of humanity. He famously said, "Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."


This study guide for Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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