“Ladies Don’t Beat the Daylight Out of People”

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“Under the watchful glare of Caroline Gordon, Flannery subdued her impulse to speak with such robust language in her fiction, in which, as Miss Gordon strictly enjoined her, the author’s voice may use only Johnsonian English. But Flannery didn’t disdain the colloquial in person, or in letters, and certainly not in the dialogue of her stories and novels. In ‘A Circle in the Fire,’ Mrs. Cope corrects the threats of her fierce young daughter with a general dictum: ‘Ladies don’t beat the daylight out of people.’ I don’t suppose that this exchange was taken from life, but from my knowledge of the actual mother and child from whom these two characters were drawn, I judge that it might have been. If so, Flannery might have protested that her own lady-like aim was to beat the daylights into people.”  –From Sally Fitzgerald’s Thomas Merton Memorial Lecture, “Rooms with a View,” delivered at Columbia University on 13 Nov. 1981 and later published in the Flannery O’Connor Bulletin, Vol. 10 (1984): 5-22.

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