The effect of humor in the works of Flannery O'Connor

The fiction of Flannery O'Connor reflects a tradition of American humor established by a group of 19th Century American writers known as the frontier humorists. The work of these writers often involves violence which they are able to treat with humor because their characters lack the pity and fear of ordinary human beings. We find that when O’Connor exaggerates her characters until they become grotesques, she follows this tradition of treating violence with humor. Another aspect of O’Connor’s work which reflects traditional American humor is her use of comic character types such as the country bumpkin, the backwoodsman, the trickster, and the Yankee peddler. Finally, in some of her straight-faced, laconic dialogue; her use of vivid “country” metaphors; and in her presentation of the traditional clash between the genteel and vernacular modes, we find that O'Connor's way of writing shows certain marked resemblances to the frontier humorists’ style. A close analysis of the novel Wise Blood demonstrates how O'Connor fits into the frontier tradition of American humor as well as how humor aids our understanding of other important elements of the novel such as characterization, theme, structure, setting, symbolism, and style.