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50 Flannery O’Connor Quotes From the Southern Story Teller

These Flannery O’Connor quotes reveal what she thought about writing, books, life, and faith.

Flannery O’Connor is an American novelist from Georgia. Her career started in high school, where she was an editor for the school paper. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and English literature from the Georgia State College for Women. She also attended the Iowa Writers Workshop and studied with Robert Fitzgerald.

O’Connor is most known for her short stories, writing two books full of them: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her two novels include: Wise Blood and The Violent Bear it Away.

Her works center around southern locations and imperfect characters who question morality and ethics. Keep reading these Flannery O’Connor quotes to discover her wealth of knowledge and writing expertise.

Don’t forget to also check out these Margaret Atwood quotes that prove words are powerful.

Flannery O’Connor quotes about writing and art

1. “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”  Flannery O’Connor

2. “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.”  Flannery O’Connor

3. “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”  Flannery O’Connor

4. “People without hope not only don’t write novels but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.”  Flannery O’Connor

5. “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”  Flannery O’Connor

6. “I write to discover what I know.”  Flannery O’Connor

7. “Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”  Flannery O’Connor

8. “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”  Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor quotes about truth and conviction

9. “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  Flannery O’Connor

10. “The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode.”  Flannery O’Connor

11. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”  Flannery O’Connor

12. “There are all kinds of truth … but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.”  Flannery O’Connor

13. “Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”  Flannery O’Connor

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14. “To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.”  Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor quotes about faith, beliefs, and God

15. “Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.”  Flannery O’Connor

16. “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”  Flannery O’Connor

17. “Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.”  Flannery O’Connor

18. “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”  Flannery O’Connor

19. “The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”  Flannery O’Connor

20. “Faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will.”  Flannery O’Connor

21. “When there is a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual and make it resident in a certain type of life only, the spiritual is apt gradually to be lost.”  Flannery O’Connor

22. “Satisfy your demand for reason but always remember that charity is beyond reason, and God can be known through charity.”  Flannery O’Connor

23. “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”  Flannery O’Connor

24. “For me, it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church puts on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified.”  Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor quotes about books, fiction, and stories

25. “There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift. It is the nature of fiction not to be good for much unless it is good in itself.”  Flannery O’Connor

26. “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”  Flannery O’Connor

27. “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.”  Flannery O’Connor

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28. “Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.” Flannery O’Connor

29. “I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.”  Flannery O’Connor

30. “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”  Flannery O’Connor

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Flannery O’Connor quotes about life

31. “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”  Flannery O’Connor

32. “I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”  Flannery O’Connor

33. “When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.”  Flannery O’Connor

34. “At its best, our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”  Flannery O’Connor

35. “She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”  Flannery O’Connor

36. “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”  Flannery O’Connor

37. “If you don’t hunt it down and kill it, it will hunt you down and kill you.”  Flannery O’Connor

38. “In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.”  Flannery O’Connor

39. “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”  Flannery O’Connor

40. “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”  Flannery O’Connor

More Flannery O’Connor quotes

41. “Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”  Flannery O’Connor

42. “He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery.”  Flannery O’Connor

43. “I love a lot of people, understand none of them.”  Flannery O’Connor

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44. “Your criticism sounds to me as if you have read too many critical books and are too smart in an artificial, destructive, and very limited way.”  Flannery O’Connor

45. “You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”  Flannery O’Connor

46. “The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience.”  Flannery O’Connor

47. “Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive worthy expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliche or a smoothing down that will soften their real look.”  Flannery O’Connor

48. “Children know by instinct that hell is an absence of love, and they can pick out theirs without missing.”  Flannery O’Connor

49. “She had observed that the more education they got, the less they could do. Their father had gone to a one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade and he could do anything.”  Flannery O’Connor

50. “Mrs. Hopewell had no bad qualities of her own but she was able to use other people’s in such a constructive way that she never felt the lack.”  Flannery O’Connor

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What did you learn from these Flannery O’Connor quotes?

Flannery drew on her life as a southerner and Roman Catholic when she wrote. Her work was characterized as grotesque due to the nature of events her characters found themselves in.

Her characters were often faced with moral dilemmas and dealt with racial undertones and disability. They undergo a transformation due to the pain they experience through violence, illness, and other behavior.

Flannery also wove her sense of humor into her words. Even though she lived a secluded life, she had a keen grasp of humanity and an understanding of sensitive issues. She supported the civil rights effort and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She held broad progressive beliefs, even voting for JFK, but still described herself as an “integrationist by principle and a segregationist by taste.”

Flannery was diagnosed with lupus, just like her father, and lived the remainder of her life at the family farm. Share some of your favorite Flannery O’Connor quotes and sayings in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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