A Late Encounter with the Enemy
|"A Late Encounter with the Enemy"|
|Published in||A Good Man Is Hard to Find|
|Publication type||single author anthology|
"A Late Encounter with the Enemy" is a short story by Flannery O'Connor. It was written in 1953 and published in 1955 in her short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find and is her only story dealing with the American Civil War. A devout Roman Catholic, O'Connor often used religious themes in her work.
General George Poker Sash is a 104-year-old veteran of the American Civil War who remembers very little about the War but is currently celebrated for his longevity. He has been invited to various public celebrations where he covets the attention, particularly, from beautiful women in the crowd, and he has an inflated image of himself despite his decrepit condition. The General's 62-year-old granddaughter, Sally Poker, prays every night that he lives long enough to sit on the stage during her college graduation so that everyone can see her strong heritage and superiority. The general is wheeled onto the stage by Sally's young nephew, John Wesley, and is barely aware of the scene. Just as his granddaughter is graduating, the General experiences a revelation that he must look beyond the past. He then dies on-stage as his granddaughter is graduating, although this is not immediately evident. It is unclear if Sally gets beyond her prideful idolatry about her family heritage.
The story is loosely based upon a newspaper article about a Civil War veteran attending his wife's graduation that Flannery O'Connor read in the early 1950s. It is also the only O'Connor story to deal explicitly with a subject that is important to the works of many Southern writers – the Civil War.
- Margaret Earley Whitt, Understanding Flannery O'Connor (Univ of South Carolina Press, 1997)
- Orvell, Miles. Invisible Parade: The Fiction of Flannery O'Connor. Philadelphia, Temple UP, 1972, p. 10.