Wise Quotes by Flannery O’Connor

flannery oconnor

Flannery O’Connor (1925 –  1964) was an American writer best known for her short stories. Though she lived a somewhat sheltered life, O’Connor’s work explored human nature, sometimes its darkest side, and others with razor wit.

Today, her work is still much discussed thanks to its unique detail, symbolism, and imagery. Her work is categorized as “Southern Gothic,” and relies heavily on regional themes.

O’Connor famously said: “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” Though her themes were often serious and dark, her writing was imbued with wit.

The religious overtones (she was a devout Catholic) were highly provocative and not appreciated by all, but she made a lasting impression in American literature. For one who did not reach the age of 40, these wise quotes by Flannery O’Connor reveal her brilliance.

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“I am a writer because writing is the thing I do best.”

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“I write to discover what I know.”

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“The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience.”

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“Not writing is a good deal worse than writing.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“Your criticism sounds to me as if you have read too many critical books and are too smart in an artificial, destructive, and very limited way.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“I’m not afraid the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”

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“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”

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“The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence.”

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Flannery O'Connor

You might also like: Flannery O’Connor Quotes on Writing and Literature

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“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 1970)

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“Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.” (Wise Blood, 1952)

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“The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode.”

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“Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do. Bad manners are better than no manners at all, and because we are losing our customary manners, we are probably overly conscious of them; this seems to be a condition that produces writers.”

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“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

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“At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”

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“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.” (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 1970)

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“The truth doesn’t change according to our ability to stomach it.”

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“Conviction without experience makes for harshness.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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A good man is hard to find and other stories by Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor on the Grotesque in Fiction

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“Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.”

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“I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“I preach there are all types of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.” (Wise Blood, 1952)

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“It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes.”

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“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

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“Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“I love a lot of people, understand none of them …” (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1978)

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“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 1970)

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“Grace changes us and change is painful.”

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“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” (Collected Stories, 1971)

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“If you don’t hunt it down and kill it, it will hunt you down and kill you.”

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The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor page on Amazon


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