Flannery O’Connor, a well-known Catholic writer of the American South, expressed in her works a strong religious consciousness. Religious implications are conspicuously inlaid in the works of her main period, after she had established herself as a professional writer—for example, the short stories collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and her two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960). In contrast, however, in the several early stories compiled as her master’s thesis (defended in 1947), the religiousness is not so clear, at least on their surface. In particular, “The Barber” (1947, published 1971), a story about a college teacher named Rayber who becomes involved in a barbershop argument on politics and is violently forced...

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