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January 30, 2012

Flannery O'Connor's "Parker's Back"--1971, U.S.

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"I'll tell you this, lad: A tattoo says more of a fellow looking at it than it can do of the man who's got it on his back." - Sarah Hall, The Electric Michelangelo

Students of 2011,

Using the direction I provided in some handouts I gave you previously, please type your entry-ticket discussion questions for this reading in the comment box below. These questions will be fair game for the midterm and final exam. In addition to submitting the question to English-blog.com, the question must also be submitted to Turnitin.com. You should also have it written in your Course Journal (collected at midterm and at the final), and have a typed, printed hardcopy to bring with you to class on the day the work is discussed (see syllabus). I will not accept late submissions so mind the deadlines.

Posted by lhobbs at January 30, 2012 09:14 AM

Readers' Comments:

On pages 99 to 105, the tattoo’s “eyes” are greatly focused on. Does this at all relate to O.E and Sarah’s marriage? Does it have any meaning in regards to the phrase, “love is blind”? Use quotes to support your answer.

Posted by: Manda Butler at February 19, 2011 09:50 AM

Tattoos play a major role in Flannery O’Connor’s short story. The main character named Parker has his first encounter with tattoos at age fourteen when he attends a fair on page 87. How does this experience change his life?

Posted by: William Kopnek at February 20, 2011 10:44 AM

Parker gets the tattoo of Christ on his back for the sole reason of pleasing his wife. In modern society, getting a tattoo for purely asthetic reasons is acceptable, but what do you think of getting a religious tattoo just to show the design off to someone? Is this a form of hypocrisy?

Posted by: Nicole Natoli at February 20, 2011 12:07 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
February 21, 2011
Discussion Question
Obadiah Elihue depicts pureness—clarity that defines goodness. This goodness is overshadowed by his wife, Sarah Ruth, who is a heartless individual. Elihue’s soul is as pure as his back—before he received a tattoo. His purity, however, is violated not by his tattoo but by his wife who thinks he does not deserve to have a tattoo depicting Christ on his back. Does Sarah Ruth hate Elihue because he is willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy, which may represent his salvation? Is she jealous because Elihue is a better human being than her?

Posted by: Emmanuel Cruz at February 20, 2011 07:10 PM

Are tattoos much like Parker’s wounds and his marriage? I notice some parallels between Parker’s tattoos and the injuries he obtain through life and his marriage to Sarah Ruth: Both came from his experience from life and both are permit and can’t be removed. And in a way, all three of them come together with that final tattoo Parker gets at the end, sort of somes up all three as it is a tattoo for his WIFE that gets him PAIN of humiliation from the people after getting it.

Posted by: John Walker at February 20, 2011 09:42 PM

Tara McLoughlin
English 340
Dr. Hobbs
February 20, 2011
Discussion Question: Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back”
When Parker shows his wife the tattoo of Christ, she calls him an idolater and kicks him out of the house. She feels that he has committed the ultimate sin by putting a face on the spirit of god. Do you believe that it is acceptable to put different faces on god because it reflects how we see him or do you feel that it is a great sign of disrespect?

Posted by: Tara McLoughlin at February 20, 2011 10:30 PM

What is the significance of Parker’s tattoo being on his back? He only wanted tattoos that he could see, but this religious tattoo was placed on his back. Is this symbolic of Parker being unable to find/see God? Would the story be the same if his tattoo of God was on his front?

Posted by: Eric Dirth at February 20, 2011 10:35 PM

Discussion Question: In Flannery O’Connor’s short story Parker’s Back, Parker, the main character, finds that he is attracted to the women who like his tattoos. In our society today, do you think that women/men are more or less attracted to a member of the opposite sex if he or she has a tattoo or tattoos?

Posted by: Chad W. at February 21, 2011 12:49 AM

In Parker's account with his first wife, he admits that he has never met a woman that didn't like tattoos. He admits that he is caught off guard, because he expected her to like them.(pg 87) Later on in the story he goes onto mentioning how he came about his first tattoo. He tells the readers that he was intrigued by the man in the fair. How would you say, the way Parker depicts his views on tattoos differ between the encounter with his first wife and his encounter with the man at the fair?

When he talks about the man at the fair, the readers can see that he is intrigued by the tattoos and becomes obsessed with the idea of tattoos, and he even begins working to be able to pay to get more. This is similar to the reason why others get tattoo. However, when he talks about the encounter with his first wife, he comes off a bit cocky and almost as if he uses his tattoos in a superficial way. He's almost disappointed that she isn't impressed. In my opinion it kind of makes it seem like he gets these tattoos to be "cool" and the attention of others is more rewarding than the actually tattoos themselves.

Posted by: Amanda Arce at February 21, 2011 12:04 PM

Natasha Witter
February 21, 2011
ENG 340
Tattoos in Literature
Parker’s Back
Covering his chest, arms, hands, and belly with tattoos it can be argues that Parker tries to boost his morale because he feels unfulfilled. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Explain.

Posted by: Natasha Witter at February 21, 2011 12:13 PM

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story Parker’s Back Parker is an irreligious, working class miscreant. When he gets the tattoo of the Byzantine image of Christ he believes that it will convince his wife to accept his tattoos. Parker seems to use tattoos as a means of control. Why do you think that tattoos of all things are how Parker controls his life? Defend your answer with support from the text.

Posted by: JH Pless at February 21, 2011 12:29 PM

In Flannery O’Connor’s Parker’s Back, Parker spends quite some time relating how plain and ugly his wife is and how pregnant women were not his favorite kind. Despite this, Parker stays with his wife, and even gets a back tattoo, something else he did not want to have, that he thinks might appease her or at least shut her up. Why would Parker stay married to his wife if he was truly dissatisfied, and why would she marry him if she found him so objectionable? Is there more to the relationship than what each character says, or is the relationship just an over-wrought, unlikely plot device?

Posted by: Douglas Phillips at February 21, 2011 12:33 PM

Katie Ganning
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
21 February 2011
Discussion 6: Parker’s Back
Skin Deep
1. Parker and Sarah’s relationship is strained by his way of life and choices and her plain simple life. How does their relationship relate to Carmey’s relationship to his wife in, Fifteen Dollar Eagle? Do you think it is because Parker and Carmey think of tattoos as a way of life or could it be deeper than the skin?

Posted by: Katie Ganning at February 21, 2011 12:49 PM

Dana Jennings
Dr. Hobbs
Entry Ticket: Parker’s Back
In the story, Parker gets tattoos to fill the emptiness he feels inside his soul. What does this signify about his lifestyle and what does his dissatisfaction with his tattoos represent?

Posted by: Dana Jennings at February 21, 2011 01:14 PM

Patricia Pothier
ENG 340
DR. Hobbs
Parker, obsessed with what he sees when he looks in the mirror, tattoos the entire front upper half of his body because it is the only part that he can see. The finished result does not make him happy though, it disappoints him. What does this say about the true reasoning behind his tattoos?

Posted by: Patricia Pothier at February 21, 2011 01:24 PM

In this short story, O’Connor makes several references to Biblical symbols including the burning tree to symbolize the burning bush and Parker’s loss of a shoe to symbolize Moses having to remove his shoes before approaching the burning bush of God. Could his tattoo of a Byzantine-style face of Jesus not only be a way to gain favor in the face of God but also acceptance from his wife and the wealthy elderly lady he works for?

Posted by: Taylor Leonard at February 21, 2011 01:42 PM

When Parker chooses to have the face of Christ tattooed on the blank spot on his back, do you think this represents a turning point for him? Do you feel that he could have ever pleased Sarah Ruth, or was the tattoo an ill-fated decision from the start?

Posted by: Lindsay Renner at February 21, 2011 01:42 PM

On page 89, Parker explains that O.E. "had no desire for one [a tattoo] anywhere he could not readily see it himself." Do you believe that this truly matters in considering getting a tattoo; after thinking about this would you consider still getting one on your back? If so, would it still truly be something for you or would it be to show to other people?

Posted by: Meghan Donovan at February 21, 2011 02:02 PM

Parker covers only the front of his body in tattoos in the beginning of the story. What is the significance of Parker leaving his back untouched for so long? What does this say about him personally?

Posted by: Meahgan Jameyson at February 21, 2011 02:15 PM

In Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back,” Parker is a character with a deep unsettling in his soul. He covers his entire front with tattoos because he wants to be able to see something of worth when he looks in the mirror. However, he is constantly struggling with unsatisfaction of his reflection. Do you think this means he is using the tattoos to try and fill a void he might feel? Based on how many biblical references are in the story, do you think this void is based on religion? Explain.

Posted by: Sarah Buckner at February 21, 2011 02:22 PM


*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.

~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at February 22, 2011 12:54 PM

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