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Dark Like Blood

"Greenleaf"

"the tree line was a dark wound in a world that was nothing but sky" (523).
Flannery O'Connor's "Greenleaf" (1956; 1965)

 

Points of Reflection

Flannery O'Connor's "Greenleaf" (1956; 1965), 232-51

1. this story’s very first line establishes the Greenleaf family's bothersome bull as akin to “some patient god come down to woo” Mrs. May (501).  Is this a throwaway reference, or does it provide the tale with impetus and direction?

2. is Mr. Greenleaf, Mrs. May’s tenant and primary farm hand, as “shiftless” and lacking in initiative (503) as Mrs. May believes?

3. the narrator first references Mrs. Greenleaf as one Mrs. May can’t bear to think about, one whose behavior should shame her sons (503)—a “large and loose” woman (505).  Is this import of this sinister allusion borne out?  Are Mrs. Greenleaf’s actions as reprehensible as Mrs. Greenleaf’s imagination implies?

4. is Mrs. May a good, respectable Christian?  You must, of course, deftly define the key terms in the question to answer this prompt.

5. consider O’Connor’s employment of the sun: what symbolic role does this bright orb play throughout the story?

6. to what does Mrs. May attribute the success of the Greenleaf boys, O.T. and E.T., and do her own boys measure up by comparison?

7. what regularly stokes Mrs. May’s anxiety, and what reliably calms her nerves?

8. is Mrs. May right to think O.T. and E.T. Greenleaf thankless, particularly in light of all she’s done for them in the past (518-19)?

9. is Mrs. May likely correct in what her she envisions about Mr. Greenleaf in his absence (521-23); is her imagination reliable?

10. does this tale have a happy or a tragic ending?



"from Un Biblia Sacra" (1969)
Salvador Dalí



Dr. Paul Marchbanks
pmarchba@calpoly.edu