From THE HABIT OF BEING: THE LETTERS OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, P.437
[O’Connor was frequently aggravated and frustrated by mis-readings and misunderstandings of her work by people who she felt should know better and who should have had the intellectual background and aptitude that would ensure insight and appreciation of her stories and novels, and she was particularly annoyed by literary critics, English professors and reviewers, that is, the educated and well informed, who had a public platform, say a column in a paper or magazine, or a captive audience like classroom full of unwitting students, which only exponentially increased and propagated further the already widespread misunderstanding of her work. I myself add the bold type at certain points for ease of reading and reference.–MJL]
To a Professor of English
28 March 1961
The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be. If it were a legitimate interpretation, the story would be little more than trick and its interest would be simply for abnormal psychology. I am not interested in abnormal psychology.
…..This story [A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND] is … not meant to be realistic in the sense that it portrays the every day doings of people in Georgia. It is stylized and its conventions are comic even though its meaning is serious. …The story is a duel of sorts between the Grandmother and her superficial beliefs and the Misfit’s more profoundly felt involvement with Christ’s action which set the world off balance for him.
The meaning of a story should go on expanding for a reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teacher are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable as long as it is not obvious … students will never learn to enjoy fiction. . . where feeling is absent from a story, theory will not supply it .
My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.