Flannery O’Connor does an excellent job of providing binaries (structuralism!) centered on Julian’s mother’s beliefs (white power is good), as well as her son’s beliefs (people should be equal). In O’Connor’s short story, it is clear that racism is at the center of the plot line, Julian and his mother, people from two entirely different generations, argue about society Julian grows increasingly frustrated with his mother because she is from the generation when Julian’s “great-grandfather was a former governor of the state” and his grandfather “was a prosperous land- owner” (200).
Of course, Julian’s mother longs for this generation because her family was powerful and wealthy. She goes on and on about how great it was whenever she visited her grandfather’s fancy house and how everything has changed since her childhood, Julian is disgusted by his mother’s reminiscing of a very racist time period.
However, Julian’s mother doesn’t want to sound too vicious so she goes on to say that she has “always had a great respect for my colored friends” (201).
Julian gets absolutely fed up with his mother because he knows that his generation is oh so different New Historicism can be applied to this story simply because in this short story, 1960’s American society is heavily debated. O’Connor wrote this short story in 1961, just at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, which would change the landscape of America for the better. Because of the movements, black people became more and more accepted (about damn time) in American society Julian respects black people and doesn’t see why they should be treated any differently than white people (what a concept!).
The narration of the story tells us that when Julian “got on a bus by himself, he made it a point to sit down beside a Negro, in reparation as it were for his mother’s sins” (201).
He knows that his mother grew up in a different generation one of slavery, racism, and wealth Julian’s mother tells Julian at one point, “if you know who you are, you can go anywhere” (199). Applying New Historicism to this statement, I took it to mean this, “Julian, once you realize that you are white, then you can rise all the way to the top in this country and have all of the money and power that you desire.” I don’t fault Julian’s mother for thinking this way simply because she grew up in a generation where it was white people dominated black people, and that was completely the norm. Whites were wealthy and powerful while blacks were poor and marginalized Sadly, this is still the case today all over the country.