Re “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” (The Fiction of Flannery O’Connor)

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-...
English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-O’Connor from 1947. Picture is cropped and edited from bigger picture: Robie with Flannery 1947.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The twelve-year-old child in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” is surrounded by foolishness although she herself is a sinner in the making.  Raised in a Catholic home, she nevertheless has “ugly” thoughts about people and “[h]er prayers . . . were usually perfunctory . . .”  From her frivolous cousins she learns about a half-man, half-woman freak at the county fair, who serenely declares to the spectators that, however appallingly strange his body is, it is “a temple of the Holy Ghost”—a source of fascination to the child.

The freak—a Christian—is living a great mystery.  But in the story’s last sentence, the child sees that the sun going down at twilight is “a huge red ball like an elevated Host [of the Eucharist] drenched in blood.”  It is easier to accept that the poor freak’s body is a temple when one realizes that Jesus Christ himself is a Host, a Savior, who was drenched in blood through the crucifixion.  There is a nexus between the two, although for the child it is the Passion that has the greater meaning.  She is becoming, after all, a fledgling in sin.

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