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Analysis of Everything That Rises Must Converge

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Analysis of Everything That Rises Must Converge

Shannon Miller

Dr. Scott Fynboe

ENC 1102

March 03, 2014

The Mental Faculties of Julian’s Mother

        In “Everything that Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Connor illustrates Julian and his mother’s relationship as strained. Furthermore, O’Connor continues to lay out the framework for feelings of contempt by Julian for his mother. The mother’s reality is not of present day as is Julian’s; his understanding of reality is unable to help him deal with his mother’s reality. O’Connor suggests that Julian cares for his mother; therefore, Julian is more of the parental unit, this being his reality. Moreover, Julian refers to his mother as “small minded”, implying that she does not have the full mental capability of a normal person her age (O'Connor).

        The description of Julian’s mother on the bus, “her feet in little pumps dangled like a child’s and did not quite reach the floor”, gives the idea that she is short in stature, which is a symptom of Down syndrome (O'Connor 218). Furthermore, in the beginning of the story, Julian’s mother must lose twenty pounds to reduce her high blood pressure; weight being an issue for people with Down syndrome as well. However, her mental state concerning the Down syndrome is to be considered mild to moderate, as she was able to raise and care for Julian during his formidable years. This explanation of mental status for Julian’s mother also explains Julian’s I-have-to-do-this-for-mother attitude when taking her to the Y, even though contempt is still felt toward his mother. He knows that her mental capabilities have limited her ability to live in the reality of their day.

        Julian’s frustration with his mother and her hideous hat gives more insight into how she perceives things and her obsession with the hat. Julian exposes the simplistic ideals of his mother as small and depressing (O'Connor). As O’Connor continues, Julian looks at his mother and describes, “Her eyes sky-blue, innocent and untouched by experience, as they must have been when she was ten. Were it not that she was a widow who had struggled fiercely to feed and clothe and put him through school; she might have been a little girl he had to take to town”, the characteristics described by Julian are evident of Down syndrome (O'Connor 213). Julian’s mother is stuck with past thoughts and memories, almost as if she is unable to “mature” her thoughts, ideals, and memories past a certain era or age, as with most Down syndrome cases these individuals do not mature mentally past childhood or teenage years. Her continual reference to her father, grandfather, Godhigh grandmother, the plantation, and the societal reference to Negros is evidence of her inability to mature her thoughts beyond the age of her remembrance. Moreover, O’Connor states that Julian, “knew every stop, every junction, every swamp along the way, and knew the exact point at which her conclusion would roll majestically into the station”, this statement is evident of repetition by his mother, another example of her inability to move past that particular era or age (O'Connor 214). Furthermore, an individual with Down syndrome often tells repeating stories or experiences.

        Julian speaks with contempt when his mother’s memories of her grandfather’s house began to bombard his thoughts; he then realizes that he could have appreciated the home more than his mother, supporting the simplistic nature of his mother (O'Connor). He  loathes the idea that his mother is unable to learn where she is, he says to her, “if you’ll never learn where you are, you at least learn where I am” this statement to his mother shows that she cannot move past a particular point in time (O'Connor). However, Julian is hoping for her to be able to see that he is not in the same reality as her. Julian goes on to explain to his mother that true culture is in the mind, he even taps his head to help her understand. These actions illustrate Julian giving his mother direction or explanation in a similar manner as direction or explanation would be given to a child or teenager.

        As the Negro got on the bus, Julian and his mother were in the midst of hostile gazes, both exposing there contempt of the situation; Julian’s contempt for his mother’s behavior and ideals of the Negro and Julian’s mother’s contempt for his tolerance of the societal shift. O’Connor explains how Julian feels during this event; detached from his mother and at that moment, he could slap her with pleasure as he would have slapped an obnoxious child in his charge (O'Connor). This illustrates that her behavior is childlike as well as Julian’s thought of his mother as a child; therefore, giving the connotation that his mother is a child. Moving through the story, Julian is lost in his thoughts about his mother’s reaction to different situations involving Negros, as his thoughts flat line he notices his mother across the aisle describing her, “purple-faced, shrunken to the dwarf-like proportions of her moral nature” (O'Connor 219). This physical description of his mother is secondary evidence of her short stature in addition to her “short” or young moral nature; moreover, supporting a symptom of Down syndrome. When the child gets on the bus O’ Connor tells of the mother playing with the child almost enamored immediately with the child. Giving the illustration that Julian’s mother was able to relate to the child on the child’s level, something much more familiar to Julian’s mother. His mother’s departure of the bus illustrates her excitability to gift the child a penny, much like children do when gifting other children. Her idea of a gift is completely innocent, like innocence of a child. Julian tries to stop his mother; however, she is unwilling to listen much like a determined child. Her determination brings her to her knees as the Negro mother reacts to the gift. Julian’s cries for help are for his mother who had become his child.

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