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Dark Like Blood

"Parker's Back"

"'Parker had never before felt the least motion of wonder in himself'" (658).
Flannery O'Connor's "Parker's Back" (1965)


Points of Reflection

Flannery O'Connor's "Parker's Back" (1965), 655-75

1. why is Parker ashamed of his fidelity to his wife (655, 663, 664, etc.)?

2. why is Parker's elation upon first seeing a man covered in tattoos an important step in his spiritual development (657-58)?

3. why might long views like that visible from Sarah Ruth's porch depress Parker (661)?

4. why does Parker feel like someone is following him (664)?

5. at what points in Parker's life does he feel compelled to make life-changing decisions, relying on instinct instead of reason, and why? What is he seeking?

6. as Parker looks through the tattoo artist's book of religious designs, moving from contemporary towards older images, do the various depictions of Christ grow increasingly discomfiting or increasingly reasurring (667)?

7. how does Parker respond when asked first by the tattoo artist (669) and then by his friends at the pool whether he's got religion?

8. while lying under the artist's electric instrument, Parker recalls his near-death experience and anticipates Sarah Ruth's reaction to his newest tattoo (670). Which of these factors--the tractor accident or his wife--is the more compelling explanation for why he commissions the tattoo artist?

9. why does Parker wish to avoid looking at the completed tattoos on his back (670)?

10. at various points in the narrative, Parker fears for his sanity (661, 669). Why? Also, at what point does this fear--and his general dissatisfaction with life--actually dissipate?

12. does Sarah Ruth enable or complicate Parker's journey towards spiritual truth?

13. what events in this story echo Biblical events?

14. early in the story, Parker considers two possible explanations for why Sarah Ruth might have been willing to marry him (655). Having finished the tale, which of teh two do you think the more plausible?

15. some critics have identified Sarah Ruth as a Manichean heretic, as one who wrongly regards human existence as a struggle between the spiritual and the material instead of seeing soul and body as inextricably linked. Does O'Connor appear to be implicitly critiquing the Manichean posture?

Mannequin (1926-27)
"The Metamorphosis of Narcissus" (1937)
oil on canvas
Salvador Dalí

Dr. Paul Marchbanks