The end of self: struggles toward transcendence in the fiction of Charles Williams, Flannery O'Connor and Graham Greene
AbstractThesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1991
The fictions of Charles Williams, Flannery O'Connor and Graham Greene share a common focus on the self in its struggle for identity. In their stories, these authors agree that identity is found only upon loss of self combined with an intimate union with other. All three are interested in the shocks of life that break open the encased personality and allow the possibility of growth away from self. A desired response to the shock, consistently implied in this fiction, is the action of repentance--either through self-aware laughter or tears--which accompanies the end of self. The end of "self" that leads to transcendence refers to the end of the autonomy of self-centered drives.This fiction mirrors the skepticism of our era, while yet producing striking new images of Christianity. It represents a range of positions concerning the role of the person in the face of the divine, while agreeing that there is such a relationship, that an I/Thou consciousness characterizes fully human life, and that there are terrifying consequences in denying this fact.Choice is the essential factor in being able to come to the end of self and achieve unity with Other. To the extent that a person is free and willing to choose to be himself or herself--rather than merely to react to environmental stimuli--to that extent will a person be able to unite with the transcendent. That transcendent may be the Omnipotence of Williams, the Mystery of O'Connor, or Greene's elusive Love, but all three transcendencies claim lives that are wholly themselves, such that they come to the end of themselves in that union.