Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Cheryl Higashida

Second Advisor

Dr. Jane Garrity

Third Advisor

Dr. Tina Pittman Wagers


The aim of this thesis is to first demonstrate that the close reading of selected works of Flannery O’Connor exposes a contrast between the normative portrayal of the original versions of characters that were later revised and their later, non-normative versions. O’Connor’s characters’ non-normativity further attributes a greater degree of humanity to them; their recreated and reinforced humanity is evident in the disruption of othering narratives of disability and in the empathy readers can then develop towards her characters. This argument is presented through three sets of close readings of non-normativity in a number of O’Connor’s works. The first set of readings utilizes O’Connor’s personal history of disease to reveal that O’Connor’s revisions to her early works create the aforementioned contrast, highlighting her later characters’ non-normativity, and additionally associates non-normativity with violence. The second set of readings presents a greater level of analysis to the incorporation of non-normativity into O’Connor’s characters. More specifically, this chapter argues that non-normativity in violence, victims, and perpetrators in O’Connor’s short stories can be read to disrupt historical narratives of disability that diminish the humanity of those with disabilities. The third set of readings utilizes the lens of narrative medicine to demonstrate the value of reading non-normativity in O’Connor’s works. Specifically, this chapter argues that close readings of non-normativity in these works give the reader the opportunity to further read these works with a sense of empathy towards their non-normative characters.