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Parker’s Back by Flannery O’connor

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Another Chance

“Parker’s Back” by Flannery O’Connor is a story of a man named O.E Parker. Parker’s life revolves around tattoos, drinking and smoking. He doesn’t intend to marry but ends up marrying a woman named Sarah Ruth. Sarah Ruth is a self-righteous woman who is forever sniffing up sin. Due to opposite views, Parker questions his marriage with his wife. He finds himself contemplating on how they met and how anyone could marry someone like her. Since Sarah disagrees with his tattoos, he plans on getting a tattoo on his back of something religious to help her understand . One day, a tractor and a tree catches on fire and luckily enough, spared his life. Due to this, he rushes immediately to get a tattoo of God on his back. In the end, Parker convinces himself that his wife will love the tattoo but instead she gets angry and beats him, and drags him out of the house. The central idea of O’Connor’s story, which if a person is open to grace and change through different ideas then their life will change significantly. It is written with a tone of denial and allusion, irony, and symbolism as its language.

Parker is tattooed everywhere on his body except his back. He believed that putting Byzantine Christ there would make his wife happy. After the tattoo was finished he realized that “The eyes that were now forever on his back were eyes to be obeyed.”(10) Parker is known to rebel religion but little did he know the tattoo was making an impact on his life.

Denial is the dominant tone that O’Connor uses throughout the story. Parker’s real name is Obadiah Elihue. It’s a biblical name that means servant of God. Parker takes for granted the opportunity of finding grace when he shows no interest in his own name. When he shares with Sarah the meaning he warns her by saying, “If you call me that aloud, I’ll bust your head open.”(5) Majority of Parker’s tattoos are random and compulsive attempts to quiet his longings. He stops at a pool hall and his friends figure out that he’s got a tattoo. They saw that it had to do with religion and asked him what he did it for and his response was “for laughs...”(10) They immediately kicked him out after he tried to attack someone who said, “why ain’t you laughing then?”(10) Parker was trying to deny the reason of his new tattoo.

One of the languages O’Connor used is irony. For example, Parker marrying Sarah Ruth. He enjoys trying to make her jealous, covering himself in tattoos, and getting drunk but Sarah is the exact opposite. She’s always calling out the wrong doing Parker does and can’t “resist- a religious subject”(6). As rough as their marriage is due to their differences they never separate from one another. O’Connor continues the irony with Parker getting a tattoo of God. When he returns home to show Sarah his new piece he thinks that she will approve of it. Ironically, the religious woman says, “ God don’t look like that...He don’t look…He’s a spirit. No man shall see his face”(12) beats him and kicks him out of the house. “It’s important to recognise that, in human minds, God is in the eye of the beholder.”( Jackson 9) The view on God is different to anyone. Since their marriage did not consist of communication Parker was not knowledgeable of Sarah’s thoughts on the look of God.

Symbolism is also another set of language. An example of symbolism is when Parker crashes the tractor into a tree. He was able to snap himself out of the distraction and jump off the tractor in just enough time to save his life. While in the air Parker yelled “GOD ABOVE!” The accident on the tractor was like an eye opener for him because he could have died in the fire. It symbolized his second chance for change. O’Connor uses his tattoos to show more of what Parker's



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