The choice to submit to divine or demonic activity does not present itself only once, nor is it merely a choice between two actions with succeeding consequences. Rather the choice requires a lifelong commitment to one of two radically alternative ways of living: denounce God because suffering exists in this world and thus perpetuate human violence or embrace the reality of suffering and discover a life of love and freedom.

Like the layers of imitation found in Saint Augustine’s confessions in which the saint converts after hearing the testimony of Ponticianus, who converted after the reading of the story of St. Anthony, who renounced all his worldly possessions after hearing the Gospels read aloud, so does Dostoyevsky here create a rousing conversion narrative.

[Randy Boyagoda says] that he desires current writers who share the convictions of O’Connor and Dostoyevsky. Instead of facing the scandal that could cause transformation, readers choose the safe and comfortable, entertaining stories that allow them to continue living as autonomous selves. While I would be happy to live in a world where Dostoyevsky and O’Connor make the best seller list, even more so, I look forward to the next writer who takes up the mantle, the one who reads the Brothers Karamazov and the Violent Bear It Away, is transformed, and then becomes imitatio Dostoyevsky and O’Connor.

Jessica Hooten Wilson, Giving the Devil His Due: Demonic Authority in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 📚