A Comparison of O’Connor and Hemingway

From the Snows of Kilimanjaro ”

THE MARVELLOUS THING IS THAT IT’S painless,” he said. “That’s how you know when it starts.””Is it really?””Absolutely. I’m awfully sorry about the odor though. That must bother you.””Don’t! Please don’t.””Look at them,” he said. “Now is it sight or is it scent that brings them like that?”

From Good Country People

Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. Her forward expression was
steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or right but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it. She seldom used the other expression because it was not often necessary for her to retract a statement, but when she did, her face came to a complete stop, there was an almost imperceptible movement of her black eyes, during which they seemed to be receding, and then the observer would see that Mrs. Freeman, though she might stand there as real as several grain sacks thrown on top of each other, was no longer there in spirit”


I found the style of introducing the characters in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Hemingway and “Good Country People” by O’Connor to be radically different. O’Connor begins by very specifically describing the characters and their mannerisms, such as Mrs. Freeman’s “forward expression”. In addition, O’Connor immediately provides the reader with insight on her relationship with the other characters, e.g. how she “thought of her as a child though she was thirty-two years old and highly educated”. In this manner, the setting and characters have been fairly well explored as the plot begins to progress. This is in stark contrast to Hemingway’s method of introduction: with sarcastic dialogue containing few context clues. The relationship between the two main characters is unclear, with much of the introductory dialogue consisting of seemingly light-hearted banter such as , “”Now is it sight or is it scent that brings them like that?”. It is revealed through more dialogue that the situation is much more dire than originally perceived as, and some information about the characters can be inferred. The nature of the characters are slowly revealed through this dialogue rather than explicitly provided by an omniscient narrator.

Though this contrast between the two authors could be a stylistic choice, it is important to note the circumstances that each story takes place in. “Good Country People” has a very every-day tone to it, with little urgency or direness. The characters experience various events (love, deception, frustration, etc.) that are quite commonplace. However, Hemingway’s protagonists are stranded on an African safari trip, with one of them facing imminent death by gangrene. Perhaps the direness of the situation is expressed by the lack of an omniscient narrator, in a cold, harsh world where man ultimately must face his demise alone. The more dire situation warrants a stripped down introduction with little context to emulate the urgency of the situation, while the more common circumstances can afford the explicit insight on the characters.

One thought on “A Comparison of O’Connor and Hemingway”

  1. Tom, I didn’t really notice this (now) evident comparison while reading Flannery O’Connor, but I think this is a great point to bring up. It is really interesting to see how different authors utilize different stylistic techniques to go about introducing their characters and subject matter, and you did a spot-on job of explaining the contrast between the techniques . Really thought-provoking post!

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