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Julian and Ms. Chestny: Alike in Many Ways l,vll t/tc-

There is an~ similarity in the two main characters in “Everything That

Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor. Ms. Chestny spends her life struggling so

that her son Julian can get an education and live well. On the other hand Julian spends

most of his life trying to teach his mother a lesson for something she may not be able to

controlvJ:;-~an and Ms. Chestny have different personalities which seem in no way th— ~ same. However, thou

l!manyw~s. ::-:-

Julian tries very h.-~xclude himself from any form of racism, but we can see

that he is a ra:;;! st like hisMher. While Julian is on the bus, the narrator says, “He

had tried to !t£ke up an acquaintance on the bus with some of the better [Negroes] … ”

(15). Julian is only interested in making friends with Negroes from a certain class. Now -f-<‘1~

that does not make him a racist. But the narrator also said previously, “He began to

imagine various unlikely ways by which he could teach [Ms. Chestny] a lesson” (14). So

Julian in fact does not really want to make friends with any Negroes. He only tries T,..,.j

because he wants to teach his mother a lesson. He is unconscious of his own feelings

towards Negroes. His reason for acquiring Negro friends is wrong and therefore that

makes him a racist of some kind. Alice Walker states that Julian “likes to think he is a- ——…. Southern liberal…” (102)1 Julian wants to disassociate himself from the common

southerners. He does not IreallYwant to be a racist, so he tries to convince himself

otherwise. Again, while still on the bus the narrator says, “To his annoyance, she

._~s2 squeezed herself into [the seat]” (16). Julian is not interested in socializing with the black

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/ItA tu ,.y••.1r£.vt/,40′ (‘~-1.lady that comes on the bus. So he gets annoyed when she sits right next to him.

ian, we see Ms. Chestny being a racist. While walking to the bus stop,

Ms. Che tny says, “[Negroes] should rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence” (7).

Ms. Chestny does not care if Negroes rise, but she wants them as far away from her as

possible if they do. The fact that Ms. Chestny does not want to interact with Negroes

makes her a racist. Julian and Ms. Chestny are on the bus when Ms. Chestny says, “I see

we have the bus to ourselves” (10). Ms. Chestny sees that the bus is clear of Negroes,

and she is happy for that. Ms. Chestny obviously does not like or want to ride on a bus

filled with Negroes, and that is another sign of her racism. Alice Walker says that Julian

looking for a black person to sit next to “horrifies his mother who, though not old, has old

ways” (102). Having old ways in the south means you are racist among other things. So

since Ms. Chestny has old ways that makes her a racist. Even a more racist reaction of

ff ~~ Ms. Chestny is when the black man enters the bus..and she says, “Now you see why I

won’t ride on these buses by myself’ (12). Ms. Chestny does not want any black person

to sit next to her. She has Julian sitting next to her as an obstacle for any black person

that enters the bus. Julian is sitting next to her, so the black person will not be able to sit

there, which is yet another way showing Ms. Chestny is a racist just like her son.

Julian appears to be very stubborn ~’iS mother. Standing at the busstoPJ

the narrator portrays Julian stubbornness by saying, “There was in him an evil urge to

break her spirit. He suddenly unloosened his tie and pulled it off and put it in his pocket”

(8). Julian knows his mother does not like it when he takes off his tie, but he still does it.

Julian is deliberately trying to irritate his mother for no apparent reason. Julian is being

stubborn like he usually does. Even more stubborn is Julian exchanging seats on the bus.

The narrator says, “Julian rose, crossed the aisle, and sat down in the place of the woman I

with the canvas sandals” (13). Julian knows his mother will not appreciate him sitting

next to a Negro, but he does it anyway. He wants to teach his mother a lesson, even

though that means being stubborn. Julian just can’t resist being stubborn. Josephine

Hendin says, “To annoy her, Julian tries to start a conversation with a Negro man” (103).

Julian knows his mother does not like Negroes but to be stubborn he tries to stir up

conversation with a Ne;;J.tNevertheless, Ms. Chestny is just as stubborn. While

walking to the bus stop Ms. Chestny says, “Wait on me, I’m going back to the house and

take this thing off and tomorrow I’m going to return it” (5). Ms. Chestny irritates Julian

for the third time concerning her hat. She has mentioned the hat before but still does not

accept that it is a passable hat. However, Julian tells his mother to keep the hat but she

keeps being stubborn and mentions returning it. Even more stubborn is Ms. Chestny

trying to give a little black boy a penny. Julian says, “Don’t do it” (20). Julian tries hard

to stop his mother from trying to give the child a penny, but she still try to anyway. She

insists on her old customs and pays no attention to Julian. Therefore she is stubborn just

like he is.

Julianmaynot appemto be strugglingat anytimebut ee7 ~

&trugglingo Whilethey meon the bus andJulianis deepin meditation,the

narrator says, “In spite of going to only a third-rate college, he had, on his own initiative,

corne out with a first-rate education” (12). Julian is determined to make something for

himself. So he struggles and makes his way with the little resources he has. The narrator

continues on saying, “Most miraculous of all, instead of being blinded by love for [his

mother] as she was for him, he had cut himself emotionally free of her and could see her

with complete objectivity” (12). Julian does not like his mother’s beliefs and her way of

life. So he struggles to get himself free of his mother’s beliefs and her way of life.

Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr. states, “Julian finds it amazing that, having been raised by

such an incompetent and unperceptive mother, he has turned out so learned and

insightful” (69). Julian believes it is almost impossible to succeed in such an

environment but his struggles get him through. He does everything he can in order to

obtain the status that he wants.

An even greater struggler is Ms. Chestny. Julian and Ms. Chestny are still on the

bus and the narrator illustrates Ms. Chestny struggles by saying, “[Hjer teeth had gone

unfilled so that [Julian’s] could be straightened … ” (11). Ms. Chestny struggles to ensure

that Julian gets the best even if it means sacrificing herself. Her main concern is for

Julian’s well being and so she puts herself last. Another example of Ms. Chestny f#) <Ill

struggles is mentioned just after she is hit to the ground. The narrator says, “[Julian]

thought bitterly of the house that had been lost for him” (21-22). Ms. Chestny struggles

go as far as her losing her house in order to support her son. She sees no other way to

support her son and so gives up that last thing she can call hers. Ms. Chestny is definitely

a struggler just like Julian.

FinaV’ulian and his mother have a longing for the past. On their way to

the bus stop the narrator says, “[Julian] never spoke of [the mansion] without contempt or

thought of it without longing” (7). Julian does not like the idea that he is not living in the

mansion. He believes that his mother and ~Znshould still be living in the mansion. Julian therefore wishes he were still living in the mansion and hopes for the day when he

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can go back to live there. Therefore Julian has a longing for the past. Preston M.

Browning, Jr. states, “But Julian’s relation to his mother, like his relation to the South

itself, is less unambiguous than he would like to imagine. What he thinks he detests, he

also loves and longs for” (101). Julian wants to believe otherwise but in fact he longs for

things from the past. He is so determined to push away what he detests that he does not

realize what it means to him. Ms. Chestny also shows a longing for the past as Julian and

she are walking to the bus stop by saying, “[Negroes] were better off when they were

[slaves]” (6). Ms. Chestny likes things how they used to be and so wishes things were

the same. She thinks that things will be better if Negroes become slaves again. At the

ending of story Ms. Chestny also shows a longing for the past. Just before she dies she

says, “Tell Grandpa to come get me. Tell Caroline to come get me” (22). Ms. Chestny

imagines she was back in her childhood. She calls for her dad and her nurse. At the

moment of her death she wishes she were back in the past. She has a longing for the past

just like her son.

Many readers, I’m sure, believe that Julian and his mother are different in every

way. They would look at Ms. Chestny and see a loving mother who struggles to give her

-~ 1’1~N man who does not appreciate all that his mother has done for him. And to a certainV “..I ~,I(

tt’~}..’ extent I would agree. But while I admit to seeing their perspective, I suggest that Julian’s ‘v-fiI’ ‘S3 XV-‘ complexity eventually shows him as being just like his mother in many ways than one.

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son a good life. On the other hand, they would look at Julian and see a stubborn young

t-l>/”:col.\'</ ‘ , Works Cited

~nkmeyer, Robert H Jr. “Narrator and Narrative: The Stories.” The Art and Vision of Flannery O’Connor. Ed. Louis D Rubin Jr. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. 67-98 .

~.6 ./.l3rowning, Preston M Jr. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Flannery

O’Connor: Crosscurrents. Ed. Harry T Moore. Carbondale: Southern lllinios UP, 1974. 99-130.

£ndin, Josephine. “The Enduring Conflict: Parents and Children in Everything That Rises Must Converge.” The World of Flannery O’Connor. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1970. 97-130.

O’Connor, Flannery. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Everything That Rises Must Converge. Ed. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965. 3-23.

…ftalker, Alice. “Beyond the Peacock: The Reconstruction of Flannery O’Connor.” In MS IV.6 (December 1975): 106-06.


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