Date

5-14-2020

Description

Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood and "The River" suggest the rise in consumerism, especially since WWII, has become an "alternative religion," eroding traditional religious values such as compassion, humility, and authenticity. The false prophets of consumerism--such as tent revivalists, televangelists, and salesmen--value the material more so than human connection and community. This transition to a "post-Christian" world has previously been examined by cultural critics such as Quentin Schultze and John Collins. Collins argues that the "religionless religion" of consumerism threatens to destroy the Christian religion and its institutions. While O'Connor's prose (Mystery and Manners) appears to support this view, I argue that her fiction is focused more on the destruction of basic human values, Christian or not, than on the loss of religious institutions. Her depictions of these false prophet characters mirror the sentiments of the cultural critics about the dangerous effects that bringing together religion and consumer culture has. While O'Connor characterizes her own work as "Redemption-based," I argue that, ultimately, O'Connor is less concerned about whether her consumer-age readers return to what now passes for a church than she is about consumerism's devastating effects on human values we have long associated with the church: the practical, not parochial, effects.

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May 14th, 12:00 AM

False Prophets/Profits: The Effects of Post-WWII Consumerism on Religious Values in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction

Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood and "The River" suggest the rise in consumerism, especially since WWII, has become an "alternative religion," eroding traditional religious values such as compassion, humility, and authenticity. The false prophets of consumerism--such as tent revivalists, televangelists, and salesmen--value the material more so than human connection and community. This transition to a "post-Christian" world has previously been examined by cultural critics such as Quentin Schultze and John Collins. Collins argues that the "religionless religion" of consumerism threatens to destroy the Christian religion and its institutions. While O'Connor's prose (Mystery and Manners) appears to support this view, I argue that her fiction is focused more on the destruction of basic human values, Christian or not, than on the loss of religious institutions. Her depictions of these false prophet characters mirror the sentiments of the cultural critics about the dangerous effects that bringing together religion and consumer culture has. While O'Connor characterizes her own work as "Redemption-based," I argue that, ultimately, O'Connor is less concerned about whether her consumer-age readers return to what now passes for a church than she is about consumerism's devastating effects on human values we have long associated with the church: the practical, not parochial, effects.