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In the year 1946 when Flannery O’Connor was about twenty-one years old, she and her mother Regina signed a document emancipating Flannery from her mother’s care so that she could attend the creative writing program at the University of Iowa (Release of Guardianship). In this determined show of independence, Flannery chose to move away from her mother and take responsibility for herself. However, this responsibility became too much for O’Connor to handle when she was diagnosed with lupus shortly after her twenty-sixth birthday. She was forced to move back in with her mother in Milledgeville and relinquish a great deal of the control that she had when she lived alone. Reading in a psychoanalytic context, I see O’Connor writing many characters who lose their self agency, as she did, desiring to unconsciously foist their responsibilities onto a caregiver; rather than voicing their desire, however, the characters project their wishes onto the process of making and saving money. According to psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan, such displacement of direct desires can be explained by the way O’Connor’s characters push their wants to the side in favor of a symbolic desire.


This paper was presented as part of the English capstone course, Senior Literature Seminar (ENGL 4903), taught by Dr. Amy Sonheim.