Identity

Flannery O’Connor’s “The View from the Woods” touches on several themes. However, one of the most prominent and obvious themes is that of identity. As we discussed in class, O’Connor is a Southern writer. One of the most important things in Southern culture is family and identity within that family. Carrying on a good family name is almost or equally important as inheriting wealth. In this short story, Mary is born a Pitt and a Fortune, though in reality she should only be called a Pitt. However, because of her resemblance to Mr. Fortune, her grandfather, (and perhaps her mother’s attempt to regain her Fortune’s respect or love), she is given the name Fortune in addition to Pitts. As she grows older, she only knows herself to be these two names. As one of my peers mentioned in she’s only 9 in the story and initially she doesn’t know the difference between Fortune and Pitts. She only knows them to be a part of her identity. She is Mary Fortune Pitts; not one or the other, but both equally. Fortune doesn’t see it like that. He doesn’t care for his own daughter or her husband whom the story describes as “an idiot named Pitts” (O’Connor 336). Mr. Fortune, a wealthy man who owns hundreds of acres of land, allows Pitts (who can’t “keep his hands on a nickel”) and the rest of the family to stay with him on his land (O’Connor 336). Because of Fortune’s disgust with Pitts, he refuses to acknowledge the fact that his beloved granddaughter, Mary, is a Pitt ignoring it “in a gentlemanly fashion as if it were an affliction the child was not responsible for,” (338). Eventually, Mary feels this hostility toward this half of her identity after on specific conversation they have in the car on the way tack from Tilman’s while discussing her beatings. Fortune asks Mary whether she is a Fortune or Pitts, she replies that she is “Mary Fortune-Pitts” and he shouts back that he is “PURE Fortune” (O’Connor 351). This could be deemed the turning point in the story when Mary, who is already upset with her grandfather, begins to see the divide between Fortune and Pitts, and is forced to choose a side. Her grandfather loves her because he sees so much of himself in her, and she loves her grandfather who is like her twin. While there is seventy years between them, the spiritual difference was slight (O’Connor 336). (So basically Mary was a stubborn old man trapped in a little girl’s stout body). And while Pitts beat Mary, out of pure spite for Fortune, Mary still loves her father and continues to deny the abuse, claiming that if anyone ever beat her she would kill them. This is probably because Mary wanted to be loved by her father, and perhaps, in some odd way, she felt that his beatings were sign of love. Either way, she was done with the grandpa for selling her lawn and her view of the woods. And at the end when Fortune tries to beat her for her bad behavior, she retaliates making good on her promise that she would kill whoever beat her, but stopped just short of his death and makes it clear to him that she is “PURE Pitts” (O’Connor 355). Of course, grandpa doesn’t like this because now she’s messing with his identity sense he feels a sense of oneness with his granddaughter. And he retaliates by defeating her which in turn ends up defeating him as well.

O’Connor, Flanner. “A View of the Woods.” The Complete Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971. 335-356. Print.

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