Nostalgia in ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’

“Your great-grandfather was a former governor of this state,” she said. “Your grandfather was a prosperous landowner. Your grandmother was a Godhigh,” Mrs. Chestny nostalgically tells her son. She fails to realize that in the present context these memories have no meaning. Julian’s irritation with her comes out in the way he lashes out at her: “Will you look around you,” he said tensely, “and see where you are now?” and he “swept his arm jerkily out to indicate the neighborhood, which the growing darkness at least made less dingy.” Gone are the past glories and the status that the family enjoyed. In comparison the present is bleak and stark. O’ Connor’s story criticizes the very nature of humans to hinge back to their past continuously and of looking at things through the past spectacles. Julian’s Mother constantly delves deep into her past and even finds her happiness from it. But in doing so, she ignores the present and the prevailing customs. Her act of scolding Julian when loosening his tie is an example of past aristocratic customs. She constantly ignores to look into prevailing customs and learn the ways of contemporary society which in turn give rise to her bigoted attitude. After being lectured by his mother about his noble roots, Julian swings his arm around their neighborhood and implores her to see the obnoxious present. Through his action, Julian explains to his mother that the past in which she still believes is no more. She is living a lie because her situation, and the South, more broadly has changed forever.

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