Symbolism In 'The River By Flannery O' Connor

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In the short story “The River” Flannery O’Connor suggests that in order for us to find freedom, we must accept death. This suggestion is supported by O’Connor’s use of symbolism, namely the imagery of skeletons, ashes and the river. O’Connor uses the skeleton symbol several times throughout the story. Because skeletons are all that remain of us after we dies, the image comes to symbolize death. Every time the skeleton symbol is used, it is in reference Mrs. Connin. This implies that it is Mrs. Connin who is associated with death which is significant because she is responsible for Harry/Bevel’s death. When Harry/Bevel listens to Mrs. Connin sleeping on the street car, he compares her breathing to “a musical skeleton” (p. 2). This suggests that Mrs. Connin is Harry/Bevel’s angel of death since she is associated with death and it is she who brings him to the river where he later…show more content…
This relates to freedom because Mrs. Connin is the one to make Harry/Bevel realize that he will find his freedom through the river. Ashes are also a symbol in the story that is used multiple times to symbolise death because when we die and if we get cremated, our bodies turn to ash. It is suggested that Harry/Bevel is associated with ash because of the fact that his last name is “Ashfield.” In the story is states that, “Bevel came to the field speckled with purple weeds, he was dusty.” (p. 10). It uses the words “dust” and “field” to relate to Harry/Bevel’s surname “Ashfield.” This proposes that Harry/Bevel will die later in the story because of the symbolism of ashes that he is connected to. O’Connor uses the symbol of the river to represent freedom because it is where heaven supposedly is. This connects to Harry/Bevel because he believes that the Kingdom of Christ is in the river itself and that the river is where his freedom lies. This is shown when he goes under the river , “ keep on going this time until he found the Kingdom of Christ in the river.”

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