Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Comparative Literature


Susan Shillinglaw


Benjy, Bishop, Disability, Faulkner, O'Connor

Subject Areas

English literature


Mentally disabled characters in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor are often subjected to mistreatment, neglect, and violence at the hands of their families and communities. In William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) and The Hamlet (1940) and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” (1955) and The Violent Bear it Away (1960), characters with mental disabilities are depicted in such a way as to evoke sympathy for the characters without the narratives overtly calling for sympathy. This is achieved through the juxtaposition of positive narrative portrayals with negative treatment by the characters’ families, and the violence these characters endure is the extreme but necessary final step in creating sympathy for them.