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Flannery O’Connor and The Doors

When I was a teacher, I encouraged my students to find songs to connect to the literature they read.  Occasionally, I would even play a song for them to break up the usual routine and help them connect better to whatever we were reading. They created soundtracks as projects, and we had fun with it while helping them to find more understanding and insight into both the literature, and the songs, which were also literature since they’re poetry (I was sneaky that way).

Long ago, I made a connection I forgot about until recently.  I read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” at least a couple times in college as an English major with an emphasis in literature, and I assure you I listened to The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” several more times than that in high school, college, and beyond. Ever since I read the story, every time I heard the song, it reminded me of it. But I hadn’t listened to the song for years until I mentioned it in my upcoming release and I was gathering a soundtrack for it.

I just had to reread the story.

concise anthology

So I pulled out my old Concise Anthology of American Literature from when I attended Old Dominion University, turned to page 2382 (thank goodness this is the “concise” version), and I dug in.

Obviously, “Riders on the Storm” has a stormy feel to it. The rain is in the music, with background sounds of thunder. O’Connor sets her short story on “a beautiful day,” in which there are no clouds, yet no visible sun either. But O’Connor has taken her characters out into the middle of nowhere, off a dirt road, where a killer has escaped from prison, and “Riders on the Storm” has always felt isolated to me.

I think the part that really made me connect the two is the second verse of the song:

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

There’s no doubt The Misfit’s brain was squirmin.’

Even the next verse echos the feeling from the story though, as the grandmother tries to tell The Misfit, or herself, that there’s good in him, and tries to convince him to pray:

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah

If you’ve never read the story, I won’t ruin the ending for you. It’s a great read, with an odd, morbid, Southern humor and irony.


About caverns of my mind


2 responses »

  1. I have never read it, though now I’m intrigued 🙂


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