Identity in “A View of the Woods”

A View of the Woods by Flannery O’Connor is a short story during the 1950’s. This short story deals vastly with the theme, identity. Mary Fortune Pitts is the granddaughter to Mr. Fortune and the daughter to Mr. Pitts. Mr. Fortune and Mr. Pitts do not get along whatsoever, constantly antagonizing each other and in many ways putting Mary in the middle of their feud. Mary is close with her grandfather, but also loves her father even though her father beats her. Mr. Fortune sees himself in her due to her appearance and intellect however, he resents the fact that she has “Pitts” in her and tries his best to just ignore half of her heritage.

As an audience, we never get the perspective of Mary, but through her actions, it is clear she struggles with her identity. It is visible with the relationship she has with her grandfather. She knows just how much her father despises him, yet she still surrounds herself around him and “been with him since birth;” she is the only grandchild that Mr. Fortune takes out to town and has a relationship with. I would go as far to say, her struggle with identity is what causes her abuse from her father and ultimately her death at the hands of her grandfather. Mr. Pitts may recognize the “inner Fortune” in her which causes him to take his anger out on her; she is also a girl who is inferior to him so she is his punching bag. At the end of the short story, after her and Mr. Fortune get into a physical fight about him selling the “lawn,” she declares to him, “ I am PURE Pitts.” This to me was a bigger blow for Mr. Fortune then being beaten up by a nine-year-old. The one person he cared about (sorta) declares to him that she is not his blood, but the blood of her parents. In anger, he grabs her throat and repeatedly hits her head into a rock until she is dead. In the end, she finally acknowledges that fact that she is a Pitts and it is what killed her. Thus by death, she is set free from her family. No matter what, she would have been a victim of abuse from her father and always feel the pressure from her grandfather.

Even after Mr. Fortune death, if Mary was still alive, her father would never actually have allowed her to own Mr. Fortune land, even if it was in Mr. Fortune’s will. The abuse she would have faced by the hands of her father for this may honestly have been worse then the fate she got.  Mr. Pitts sees Mary as an object he can terrify and bully. Especially in this patriarchal household where the mother and siblings do nothing to help Mary, Mary’s fate would have ultimately ended in death and abuse no matter what. Mr. Pitts was cruel to Mary in every sense, however  Mary  still obeyed and listened to him because that was her father, part of her identity.

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