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Comparison essay on A View of the Woods by Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor's work is noticeable for its dark themes. A classic example of this is her short story A View of the Woods. The story centers around the relationships between a grandfather and his son and granddaughter, Mary Fortune. It's frequently used as an essay topic, often with the aim of comparing it with similar works. If you're writing a comparison essay on A View of the Woods there are some points you should consider to get you on the right track.

Consider the relationship between Mary Fortune and her grandfather, Mr Fortune. In most fiction such relationships are one-sided, with the grandparent holding the power and influence (whether benevolent or malevolent) and the grandchild being the weaker partner. In A View of the Woods, though, the relationship is much more equal. Mary often defies her grandfather's wishes and openly disagrees with him, often in bizarre ways; Fortune doesn't want her father to whip her, but Mary allows her to. Their relationship seems to carry sexual undertones, with violence being used as a metaphor for actual sex. At the end, when Fortune kills Mary after she attacks him, he appears to have a heart attack.

A common theme in literature is the attachment of the old to land, and the desire of the young for progress. In this case it is reversed. Mr Fortune has sold a plot of land that his son in law, Mary's father, had turned into his best grazing land. Mary and Pitts, her father, were opposed to this, which is the cause of a great deal of resentment. The older generation in the shape of Mr Fortune is happy to take money so a country club can be built while the younger one in the shape of Mary wants to preserve both the pasture and her view of the woods.

O'Connor reverses much of the usual imagery used by fiction writers in this story. When describing the land she often uses words that represent human emotions or moods, such as "sullen" or "indifferent" - not generally positive words, in general - while humans are often described in animalistic terms.

Mr Fortune sees Mary as the relative most like himself, and admires her for it; he states that if - he stresses IF - he leaves an inheritance it will only be to Mary. In the end, though, it is this similarity that destroys both Mary and himself. Contrast this to many other works where it is the difference between characters that leads to their downfall.

A View of the Woods is a difficult story, but it can be worthwhile making the effort to analyze it and comparing it to other short stories about family conflict is a good way to present that analysis.

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