Literature’s Mirror

Adapted from a letter to a friend

I tired of hearing or reading how great a writer Flannery O’Connor is, so I borrowed her Collected Works from the library. First I read “All that rises must converge”, which was an interesting story even if I don’t understand the title. I then read The Violent Bear It Away, a very well-told and imaginative tale with some horrifying twists along the way, and the title makes perfect sense. I just finished “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, which is… yeah. Oh, my.

One difficulty reading literature is that I never find myself among the heroes. Instead I often to see myself reflected among of the villains. It’s not that I share the villains’ general villainy, but that I find aspects of myself reflected in their own characters. I always knew I was a horrible human being, but to be a villain!

People reckon as their worst enemy
the one who tells them the truth.

— Plato

I look back on my life and find myself wondering, “if not for my faith, would I not have turned out like this person?” Perhaps this is why no one else reads literature anymore; mirrors are horrible devices, and the best literature acts as a mirror.

Herewith I present a few examples, leaving to the reader’s imagination what exactly I see mirrored in the character. I’ll front-load this with Flannery O’Connor; after all, she’s fresh in my mind: