154+ Best Flannery O’Connor Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Mary Flannery O’Connor was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. Her works, usually set in the rural American South and often treating of alienation, concern the relationship between the individual and God. Inspirational Flannery O’Connor quotes will encourage growth in life, make you wiser and broaden your perspective.

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Most Famous Flannery O’Connor Quotes

It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes. – Flannery O’Connor

Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do. Bad manners are better than no manners at all, and because we are losing our customary manners, we are probably overly conscious of them; this seems to be a condition that produces writers. – Flannery O’Connor

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

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

Dogma is the guardian of mystery. The doctrines are spiritually significant in ways that we cannot fathom. – Flannery O’Connor

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

Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. – Flannery O’Connor

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: “The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.” No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller. – Flannery O’Connor

In most good stories, it is the character’s personality that creates the action of the story. If you start with real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen. – Flannery O’Connor

Once the process [of conversion] is begun and continues…you are continually turning inward toward God and away from your own egocentricity…you have to see this selfish side of yourself in order to turn away from it. I measure God by everything I am not. I begin with that. – Flannery O’Connor

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

It is hard to make your adversaries real people unless you recognize yourself in them – in which case, if you don’t watch out, they cease to be adversaries. – Flannery O’Connor

I am a Catholic not like someone else would be a Baptist or a Methodist, but like someone else would be an atheist. – Flannery O’Connor

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

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

I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil. I have also found that what I write is read by an audience which puts little stock either in grace or the devil. You discover your audience at the same time and in the same way that you discover your subject, but it is an added blow. – Flannery O’Connor

When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures. – Flannery O’Connor

To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures. – Flannery O’Connor

I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. – Flannery O’Connor

When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville. – Flannery O’Connor

Policy and politics generally go contrary to principle. – Flannery O’Connor

It’s always wrong of course to say that you can’t do this or you can’t do that in fiction. You can do anything you can get away with, but nobody has ever gotten away with much. – Flannery O’Connor

Simone Weil is a mystery that should keep us all humble, and I need it more than most. Also she’s the example of the religious consciousness without a religion which maybe sooner or later I will be able to write about. – Flannery O’Connor

Sickness is a place, … and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. – Flannery O’Connor

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

The Church’s stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice the day when they say: This is right whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or be prepared for crowding. – Flannery O’Connor

The mind serves best when it’s anchored in the Word of God. There is no danger then of becoming an intellectual without integrity. – Flannery O’Connor

We are not judged by what we are basically. We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given. Success means nothing to the Lord. – Flannery O’Connor

There won’t be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy. – Flannery O’Connor

You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it. – Flannery O’Connor

I love a lot of people, understand none of them. – Flannery O’Connor

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

I use the grotesque the way I do because people are deaf and dumb and need help to see and hear. – Flannery O’Connor

Those who have no absolute values cannot let the relative remain merely relative; they are always raising it to the level of the absolute. – Flannery O’Connor

The Catholic novelist in the South will see many distorted images of Christ, but he will certainly feel that a distorted image of Christ is better than no image at all. I think he will feel a good deal more kinship with backwoods prophets and shouting fundamentalists than he will with those politer elements for whom the supernatural is an embarrassment and for whom religion has become a department of sociology or culture or personality development. – Flannery O’Connor

People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience. – Flannery O’Connor

In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies. – Flannery O’Connor

I am tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man brutal and sarcastic. The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror. – Flannery O’Connor

The high-school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. He will teach literature, not social studies or little lessons in democracy or the customs of many lands. And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed. – Flannery O’Connor

I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in relation to that. – Flannery O’Connor

I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. – Flannery O’Connor

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

A working knowledge of the devil can be very well had from resisting him. – Flannery O’Connor

I suppose half of writing is overcoming the revulsion you feel when you sit down to it. – Flannery O’Connor

The only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. – Flannery O’Connor

You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission. – Flannery O’Connor

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

In the first place you can be so absolutely honest and so absolutely wrong at the same time that I think it is better to be a combination of cautious and polite – Flannery O’Connor

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

Conviction without experience makes for harshness. – Flannery O’Connor

Most of us come to the church by a means the church does not allow. – Flannery O’Connor

Ours is the first age in history which has asked the child what he would tolerate learning. – Flannery O’Connor

You shall know the truth, and it will make you odd. – Flannery O’Connor

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. – Flannery O’Connor

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. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell them to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning. – Flannery O’Connor

You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own. – Flannery O’Connor

You have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. – Flannery O’Connor

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

What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. – Flannery O’Connor

One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention. – Flannery O’Connor

Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better. – Flannery O’Connor

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

Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon It will keep you free – not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects around you. – Flannery O’Connor

It is the business of the artist to uncover the strangeness of truth – Flannery O’Connor

Right now, the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul. – Flannery O’Connor

Anyone who survives a southern childhood has enough material to last a lifetime. – Flannery O’Connor

I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both. – Flannery O’Connor

Writing is like giving birth to a piano sideways. Anyone who perseveres is either talented or nuts. – Flannery O’Connor

The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky. – Flannery O’Connor

A God you understood would be less than yourself. – Flannery O’Connor

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

There are two qualities that make fiction. One is the sense of mystery and the other is the sense of manners. You get the manners from the texture of existence that surrounds you. The great advantage of being a Southern writer is that we don’t have to go anywhere to look for manners; bad or good, we’ve got them in abundance. We in the South live in a society that is rich in contradiction, rich in irony, rich in contrast, and particularly rich in its speech – Flannery O’Connor

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

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

There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. – Flannery O’Connor

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

It seems that the fiction writer has a revolting attachment to the poor, for even when he writes about the rich, he is more concerned with what they lack than with what they have. – Flannery O’Connor

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

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

The writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live. – Flannery O’Connor

I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth. – Flannery O’Connor

I am a writer because writing is the thing I do best. – Flannery O’Connor

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

The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence. – Flannery O’Connor

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

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

There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. – Flannery O’Connor

When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business. – Flannery O’Connor

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

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal. – Flannery O’Connor

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

The two worst sins of bad taste in fiction are pornography and sentimentality. One is too much sex and the other too much sentiment. – Flannery O’Connor

Go warn the children of God of the terrible speed of mercy, – Flannery O’Connor

I feel that discussing story-writing in terms of plot, character, and theme is like trying to describe the expression on a face by saying where the eyes, nose, and mouth are. – Flannery O’Connor

It is popular to believe that in order to see clearly one must believe nothing. This may work well enough if you are observing cells under a microscope. It will not work if you are writing fiction. For the fiction writer, to believe nothing is to see nothing. – Flannery O’Connor

There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling about in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe that we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion – Flannery O’Connor

Either practice restraint or be prepared for crowding – Flannery O’Connor

Nobody with a good car needs to be justified. – Flannery O’Connor

Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it. – Flannery O’Connor

I am much younger now than I was at twelve or anyway, less burdened. – Flannery O’Connor

I was a very ancient twelve; my views at that age would have done credit to a Civil War veteran. I am much younger now than I was at twelve or anyway, less burdened. The weight of the centuries lies on children, I’m sure of it. – Flannery O’Connor

You can’t clobber any reader while he’s looking. You divert his attention, then you clobber him and he never knows what hit him. – Flannery O’Connor

The meaning of the story is the story. – Flannery O’Connor

Good and evil appear to be joined in every culture at the spine. – Flannery O’Connor

Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery and one which a novel, even a comic novel, can only be asked to deepen. – Flannery O’Connor

I’m going to preach there was no Fall because there was nothing to fall from, and no Redemption because there was no Fall, and no Judgment because there wasn’t the first two. Nothing matters but that Jesus was a liar. – Flannery O’Connor

My own approach to literary problems is very like the one Dr. Johnson’s blind housekeeper used when she poured tea-she put her finger inside the cup. – Flannery O’Connor

The only way to the truth is through blasphemy. – Flannery O’Connor

It was not right to believe anything you couldn’t see or hold in your hands or test with your teeth. – Flannery O’Connor

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

Far be it for me to have worked it out in any abstract way. I don’t know why the bull and Mrs. May have to die, or why Mr. Fortune and Mary Fortune: I just feel in my bones that that is the way it has to be. If I had the abstraction first I don’t suppose I would write the story. – Flannery O’Connor

Christianity is a strangely cheery religion. – Flannery O’Connor

I believe the teacher’s work is largely negative, that it is largely a matter of saying, “”This doesn’t work because …”” or “”This does work because …”” The because is very important. The teacher can help you understand the nature of your medium, and he can guide you in your reading. – Flannery O’Connor

The reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror. – Flannery O’Connor

The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where the human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal through the senses with abstractions. – Flannery O’Connor

Every morning between 9 and 12 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing. If an idea does come between 9 and 12 I am there ready for it. – Flannery O’Connor

I feel that whatever virtues the novel may have are very much connected with the limitations you mention. I am not writing a conventional novel, and I think that the quality of the novel I write will derive precisely from the peculiarity or aloneness, if you will, of the experience I write from. – Flannery O’Connor

There may never be anything new to say, but there is always a new way to say it, and since, in art, the way of saying a thing becomes a part of what is said, every work of art is unique and requires fresh attention. – Flannery O’Connor

The basic experience of everyone is the experience of human limitation. – Flannery O’Connor

The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she liver with, her only boy. – Flannery O’Connor

The fiction writer has to engage in a continual examination of conscience. He has to be aware of the freak in himself. – Flannery O’Connor

I have also led you astray by talking of technique as if it were something that could be separated from the rest of the story. Technique can’t operate at all, of course, except on believable material. – Flannery O’Connor

I know well enough that very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well. They are interested in publishing something, and if possible in making a “”killing.”” They are interested in being a writer not in writing. . . If this is what you are interested in, I am not going to be much use to you. – Flannery O’Connor

It is a good deal easier for most people to state an abstract idea than to describe and thus re-create some object they actually see. – Flannery O’Connor

Technique in the minds of many is something rigid, something like a formula that you impose on the material; but in the best stories it is something organic, something that grows out of the material, and this being the case, it is different for every story of any account that has ever been written. – Flannery O’Connor

You get a real person down there and his talking will take care of itself. – Flannery O’Connor

When using dialect, use it lightly. A dialect word here and there is enough. All you want to do is suggest. Never let it call attention to itself. – Flannery O’Connor

As for the blood and the head business, the blood and the head work together and what is not first in the blood can sometimes reach it by going first through the head and what is wrong in the blood can sometimes be tempered by the head. – Flannery O’Connor

The less self-conscious you are about what you are about, the better in a way, that is to say technically. You have to get it in your blood, not in the head. – Flannery O’Connor

If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival. – Flannery O’Connor

Being a Georgia author is a rather specious dignity, on the same order as, for the pig, being a Talmadge ham. – Flannery O’Connor

It is always difficult to get across to people who are not professional writers that a talent to write does not mean a talent to write anything at all. – Flannery O’Connor

The novelist is required to open his eyes on the world around him and look. If what he sees is not highly edifying, he is still required to look. Then he is required to reproduce, with words, what he sees. – Flannery O’Connor

I don’t think you should write something as long as a novel around anything that is not of the gravest concern to you and everybody else and for me this is always the conflict between an attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times. – Flannery O’Connor

In my travels I am often asked if college stifles young writers. In my opinion, it doesn’t stifle them enough. – Flannery O’Connor

If there were no hell, we would be like the animals. No hell, no dignity. – Flannery O’Connor

The main concern of the fiction writer is with mystery as it is incarnated in human life. – Flannery O’Connor

I am very much afraid that to the fiction writer the fact that we shall always have the poor with us is a source of satisfaction, for it means, essentially, that he will always be able to find someone like himself. – Flannery O’Connor

The novelist is bound by the reasonable possibilities, not the probabilities, of his culture. – Flannery O’Connor

Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama . . . . Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe. – Flannery O’Connor

Poorly written novels–no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters–are not good in themselves and are therefore not really edifying. – Flannery O’Connor

The man in the violent situation reveals those qualities least dispensable in his personality, those qualities which are all he will have to take into eternity with him. – Flannery O’Connor

Success means being heard and don’t stand there and tell me that you are indifferent to being heard. You may write for the joy of it, but the act of writing is not complete in itself. It has to end in its audience. – Flannery O’Connor

You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don’t, probably nobody else will. – Flannery O’Connor

If we forget our past, we won’t remember our future and it will be as well because we won’t have one. – Flannery O’Connor

The idea of being a writer attracts a good many shiftless people, those who are merely burdened with poetic feelings or afflicted with sensibility. – Flannery O’Connor

A story has to have muscle as well as meaning, and the meaning has to be in the muscle. – Flannery O’Connor

Elizabeth Hardwick told me once that all her first drafts sounded as if a chicken had written them. So do mine for the most part. – Flannery O’Connor

Dogma can in no way limit a limitless God. – Flannery O’Connor

Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown. – Flannery O’Connor

No art is sunk in the self, but rather, in art the self becomes self-forgetful in order to meet the demands of the thing seen and the thing being made. – Flannery O’Connor

I’m a member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way. – Flannery O’Connor

I distrust pious phrases, especially when they issue from my mouth. I try militantly never to be affected by the pious language of the faithful, but it is always coming out when you least expect it. In contrast to the pious language of the faithful, the liturgy is beautifully flat. – Flannery O’Connor

I have almost no capacity for worship. What I have is the knowledge that it is my duty to worship and worship only what I believe to be true.” – Flannery O’Connor

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