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The Violent Bear It Away

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  10,347 ratings  ·  881 reviews
First published in 1960, The Violent Bear It Away is now a landmark in American literature. It is a dark and absorbing example of the Gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O'Conner's work. In it, the orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousins, the schoolteacher Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle--that Tarwater will beco ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1960 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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bambu78 I think the stranger is a symbol of evil, but also something else. Didn't the great-uncle warn Tarwater against riding with strangers? So the great-un…moreI think the stranger is a symbol of evil, but also something else. Didn't the great-uncle warn Tarwater against riding with strangers? So the great-uncle was right once. Could he then be right in other ways, too?(less)
jodie The religious figures talked about in this book other than those that you have already mentioned are Jonah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Moses. Jonah is talke…moreThe religious figures talked about in this book other than those that you have already mentioned are Jonah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Moses. Jonah is talked about twice (I think?) towards the end, and Moses once. A Leviathan is also mentioned during the lake scene, however I don't know if that has any symbolism towards the novel as a whole. There is a lot of talk about the lion's den which connects to Daniel, as I think that's mentioned in the novel around 2-3 times?(less)

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“He knew that he was called to be a prophet and that the ways of his prophecy would not be remarkable. His black pupils, glassy and still, reflected depth on depth his own stricken image of himself, trudging into the distance in the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus, until at last he received his reward, a broken fish, a multiplied loaf.”

It used to be that the Devil and the threat of Hell were the scariest notions to me as a child. These thoughts were stuffed into my head at an early age and
Dan Schwent
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books, 2016
Francis Marion Tarwater buries his great uncle (figuratively) and heads to civilization to meet his uncle, the school teacher Rayber. Before his great uncle passed, he decreed that if he didn't baptize Rayber's son Bishop, Francis would. Can Rayber and the younger Tarwater fight destiny and break the elder Tarwater's hold on Francis from beyond the grave?

Flannery O'Connor sure was an upbeat person when it came to religion, wasn't she? The Violent Bear It Away is a tale of how one man's obsession
Violence to Youth of Southern-Fried Fundamentalism

I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it's most certainly Christ-haunted.
F. O'Connor

If you were raised in the rural South or spent summers there with someone in a WASP family, perhaps you suffer the occasional nightmare, as do I from one summer staying with a cousin and being dragged a few times to a hyper-fundamentalist church, due to the trauma left by hellfire/brimstone sermons at an impressionable age (
Paul Bryant
May 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels

It often seems that novelists have taken it upon themselves to compile a comprehensive catalogue of all of the thousand and one ways human beings can contrive to be unpleasant to one another.

This novel is one such. Although you may say it’s more about how God contrives to be unpleasant to human beings.

Right at the beginning it’s like going to a big gig – I’m in the audience and we’re all so stoked up that even when we know the band won’t be out for at least 45 minutes, when the roadie c
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, 20-ce, fiction
Religious fanaticism in the American sticks. An old man, a soi-disant prophet of Christ, a fanatic, a nut job, steals an orphan named Tarwater from his citified nephew's home and bolts to the backwoods to raise him in the way of the Lord -- and to make moonshine. The boy receives a highly selective version of homeschooling from the old man. They are isolated in the sticks from society of any kind, not counting the occassional buyer of hooch. As the novel opens the old man has died at the breakfa ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, aere-perennius
“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”
― Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear it Away


O'Connor was ruthless in her vision. The struggle of Tarwater and his uncle Rayber against their joint destinies and the pull of fundamentalism and secularism is fully realized in this short novel. 'The Violent Bear it Away' is biblical, American, and absolutely brutal in both its imagery of destruction and language of redemption. I can only think of a handful of writers who seem to grab both my b
Diane Barnes
I have now read both novels and many of O'Connor's short stories, and my first observation is that she is a brilliant author, but difficult and not very pleasant to read. Her characters are all haunted, and in both this and Wise Blood, insanity rules. Dark and depressing. I prefer her short stories. No star rating because I have no idea. I may return to rate it later, as I mull it over.
Edward Lorn
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Can we chat for a minute, fam? Good. I'll try and make it quick.

This is my favorite type of book. If stories like this were still popular, this would be the only kind of book I'd write. Strong opener and then loads upon loads of character development and realistic dialogue followed by a Holy-Shit! ending. I love getting to know a character and then witnessing the dismantling of that character. I'm a tinkerer at heart. I like to see the way things work. Show me a
Connie G
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
"From the days of John the Baptist until now, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away."
Matthew 11:12

Fourteen-year-old Francis Marion Tarwater had been taken by his great-uncle Mason when he was a baby. The old man claimed to be a prophet, and trained the boy to follow in his footsteps. Tarwater was told to baptize the disabled son of his schoolteacher uncle, Rayber. When Mason dies, Tarwater is torn between carrying out his great-uncle's request, and listening to th
Eddie Watkins
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
I know virtually nothing about Flannery O’Connor’s life and outlook on life. I know that she was a Catholic and that she raised peacocks and that she died too young, of lupus. That’s about it. She also inherited, either through blood or Southern literary tradition, a fire-and-brimstone vision of life and human passions, and more than even Wise Blood, The Violent Bear it Away is an expression of this vision.

Seems the only characters that really matter to O’Connor are the extremists, either in th
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Violent Bear It Away: Between God and the Devil

"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. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in t
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ideas
I read this in one go, sitting up late in bed. I thinking I was shaking when I finished it. I've only (voluntarily) stayed up late reading something for a class a few times, and I think they were all for this same course. I can't remember the professor's name and don't think she got tenure, but man was she good at picking books.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
A fairly thick slice of Southern Gothic packed with symbolism and religious imagery. The title is taken from the Bible: Matthew 11:12. From the Douay Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate and commonly used in Catholic churches:
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.”
There are a limited numbers of characters and all of the main ones are male. There are spoilers ahead, necessary to discuss the novel effectively. Fourt
I'm not sure what to say about this short story. I liked parts of the story but mostly, it just wasn't for me. If I were to recommend a short story by Flannery O'Connor it would be A Good Man Is Hard To Find. For me, the latter was much more enjoyable. ...more
Joe Valdez
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
Published in 1960, The Violent Bear It Away is the second and (due to her death at the age of 39), final novel by Flannery O'Connor. Chapter 1 had been published in 1955 as You Can't Be Any Poorer Than Dead in the literary journal New World Writing. I read it in O'Connor's masterful short story collection The Complete Stories, so this story and characters were as familiar to me as an old ghost story.

The novel is the account of fourteen-year-old Francis Marion Tarwater, raised solely by a man cla
Megan Baxter
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This little book very nearly blew me away. I say very nearly, because there's one incident right near the end that both upset my own sensibilities - but more than that, I've been mulling it over, and I can't for the life of me figure out what it adds. Except for that, though, this is an astounding look at obsessive faith - in religion, in rationality.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision
Jun 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Everyone should read Flannery O'Connor, but I wouldn't start with this novel. First read some short stories--my favorite is Good Country People. But this novel is well written and very her. I love her bizzareness and the Southernness that just pervades everything she writes. Her characters are so amazingly real and yet completely unreal at the same time. She makes the unbelievable believable without seeming to try.
3.5 Stars rounded up

Up until now my adventures with Flannery O’Connor has been limited to a handful of short stories. The most memorable of these is Revelation, which I first read about 40 years ago. It was a story that stuck with me. Sadly I forgot or never knew who authored it. Because of the southern nature of the writing I always attributed it to being authored by Faulkner. A few years ago I was surprised, when I read a story titled Revelation by Flannery O’Conner and it was the same story I
There’s a difference between dark and dreary. Dreary is when you take dark out and expose it to the light until its mysteriousness is gone and you see how sad it is. This story is dreary.

But the writing is breathtaking, arresting. I won’t soon forget these characters. Flannery O’Connor is astounding in the way she explores forbidden territory. She takes her stories to what you think is the edge, and then she goes a step further.

This one is about 14 year-old Francis Marion Tarwater and his fate.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sometimes, verbs can be so inadequate. I really can't say that I "liked" The Violent Bear It Away A Novel by Flannery O'Connor. On the other hand, I can't say I "didn't like" it either. Maybe what I can say is that this book "moved" me, but in a negative way. Maybe the verb I want is "disturbed". Now, I do like reading books that make me feel something strongly, even if if that feeling is negative. This definite falls into that category.

I do have to say that I'm very, very glad that I have read
Proctodeal Trophallaxus
I read this book after finishing her collected short stories and Wise Blood, her first novel. None of her other work prepared me for this, her cynical, paranoid mind fuck of a novel. Her prose, as always, is clear and excellent, and she once again explores faith and its absence in a way that allows for no easy solutions, no pat answers. But Christ on a crutch is this a difficult book. One of the things I love about her work is the wry sense of humor laced through it, balancing out the dark theme ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this because it was a book choice of a group I am in and because I had never read O’Connor before. I have just finished it and will write a longer review but want to say here that I was absolutely blown away by the author’s writing which has brilliance and power. I now intend to read everything by this author.

I think what made it so good for me was that I listened to it as an audiobook. It is definitely not an easy read and is not one I would normally read but the writing and the depth of
Skylar Burris
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it
I was struck by this book, but I feel I have not yet understood it. As I read this, I kept thinking of O'Connor's remark in an interview that the south, if not exactly Christ-centered, is "Christ haunted." This is a disturbing, difficult book, and I was left wondering, "What does it all mean?" O’Connor reminds me of another Catholic author, Graham Greene, in her depiction of the Christian religious person as sinful, dark, violent, passionate, vibrantly alive, touched and consumed and overpowered ...more
Justin Evans
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
O'Connor is like a really cranky Tolstoy: great with the psychology, great with the symbolism and the narrative ironies, and fabulous with ideas. But not always so great with the prose. If only an editor had gone through and cut out all those terrible analogies.

Otherwise, there's not much to say. This is wonderful stuff, an example of how one can write with the restrictions of an uneducated, not particularly intelligent person's voice, and do it well. Compare, I regret to say, Marilynne Robinso
James Stanley
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
When it comes to religion, I find O'Connor much like Dostoevsky in that she is able to present a series of characters and situations that to me very forcefully illustrate the non-existence of God, while I'm certain she creates them to argue the complete opposite.

So, spoiler alert I guess. Francis Marion Tarwater, a fourteen year old sociopathic (and possibly schizophrenic) murderer with delusions of biblical grandeur is not reached whatsoever by the secular-minded uncle who attempts to help him
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was very well crafted and drawn out in the Southern Gothic style. But I will admit, that after I read it I needed to go bathe and wash off the residue.
Tom LA
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Second reading. A dark, inevitably violent novel; the physical violence is occasional, but the spiritual antagonism is incessant and oppressive. The undeniably gorgeous writing animates a deeply apocalyptic vision: O'Connor presents a fallen world where the devil walks among humanity and prophecy is the genuine calling of the elect. It brought back powerful memories of reading the Old Testament as a child and taking its stories as historical fact deeply applicable to my own life, the incontrover ...more
S Suzanne
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, classics
I grew up in the Bible Belt, the "Christ-haunted" south...and I agree with some others here that FOC makes the religious zealots burn off the page, and the non-believers (or those fighting not to believe)are depicted as empty husks.

It is a strange perspective to be a passionate Catholic (as FOC was) in the Bible Belt.

Schizoid, Gothic, and occasionally beautiful are words that come to mind for the reactions of young tender minds brought up "in Jesus" in the South. (While I was surrounded by this
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit!

No, seriously, this is some holy shit: it’s Flannery O’Connor, so it kind of goes with the territory. Holy holy crazy Biblical doomsday abounds and it is fantastic. Idamn it, God! Why’d you have to fell so incredible a writer at only 39? This, her final novel, only hints at the potentiality that we were denied. Oh well, I guess an angel got its wings or whatever the saying is. Or is that every time a baby cries?

If you dug Hazel Motes or any of the guano-sniffers from Good Man, this is
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Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. O’Connor wrote two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and two story collections, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1964). Her Complete Stories, published posth ...more

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“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.” 114 likes
“He knew that he was the stuff of which fanatics and madmen are made and that he had turned his destiny as if with his bare will. He kept himself upright on a very narrow line between madness and emptiness and when the time came for him to lose his balance he intended to lurch toward emptiness and fall on the side of his choice.” 20 likes
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