This essay argues that the presence of birth control in a narrative interrupts generic conventions by conditioning modernist subjectivities. The symbolic possibilities of birth control carry the promise and threat of rupture. In the case of Flannery O'Connor's short story “A Stroke of Good Fortune” (1955), these possibilities disrupt both a character's identity and what we might call the identity of an O'Connor text. Critics generally read the story as a failed attempt to portray the Catholic plea against, as O'Connor put it, the “rejection of life at the source.” Recognizing the story's contraceptive disruptions allows us to see it as a modernist text rather than a narrative failure. Reading the story in this light situates modernist aesthetics within larger cultural debates about reproductive rights and civil liberties at the same time that it reveals a surprising statement about contraception. This is not to say that the story rejects contraception as a practice, as might be expected from the pen of the devoutly Catholic O'Connor. Rather, the story derides the claim that birth control is a panacea. “A Stroke” shows that birth control can be used to create oppressive, even Gothic, situations if women do not wield the control denoted by the name.
Research Article| December 01 2014
Aimee Armande Wilson; Southern Mother, Lethal Fetus; Or, How Birth Control Makes a Modernist Out of Flannery O'connor. Genre 1 December 2014; 47 (3): 407–430. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2797237
Download citation file: