July 15, 2008

The wooden leg

Enjoy The Collector; based on the short story 'Good Country People' by Flannery O'Connor.

Loved everything about this - The song; the notion of capturing the essence of a short story in a silent movie like setting; the movie itself, shot in sepia tones. Very creative. Nicely done. (Thanks to Missflannery Weblog, where I found it.)

You can also see a short film based on the same story, as directed in the 1960s by Gary Graver and also read a short exposition of the nuances of this rather complex story.

And last but not least, here is what Flannery O'Connor herself wrote about the story, as extracted from an
excellent article on "Writing Short Stories" that I read yesterday; it is taken from her book of essays, Mystery and Manners.
In good fiction, certain of the details will tend to accumulate meaning from the action of the story itself, and when this happens they become symbolic in the way they work. I once wrote a story called "Good Country People," in which a lady Ph.D. has her wooden leg stolen by a Bible salesman whom she has tried to seduce. Now I'll admit that, paraphrased in this way, the situation is simply a low joke. The average reader is pleased to observe anybody's wooden leg being stolen. But without ceasing to appeal to him and without making any statements of high intention, this story does manage to operate at another level of experience, by letting the wooden leg accumulate meaning. Early in the story, we're presented with the fact that the Ph.D. is spiritually as well as physically crippled. She believes in nothing but her own belief in nothing, and we perceive that there is a wooden part of her soul that corresponds to her wooden leg. Now of course this is never stated. The fiction writer states as little as possible. The reader makes this connection from things he is shown. He may not even know that he makes the connection, but the connection is there nevertheless and it has its effect on him. As the story goes on, the wooden leg continues to accumulate meaning. The reader learns how the girl feels about her leg, how her mother feels about it, and how the country woman on the place feels about it, and finally, by the time the Bible salesman comes along, the leg has accumulated so much meaning that it is, as the saying goes, loaded. And when the Bible salesman steals it, the reader realizes that he has taken away part of the girl's personality and has revealed her deeper affliction to her for the first time.

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