The following is a blog entry composed by a student in my American Lit. survey after having read "Parker's Back":
“I’m a kitchen sink,
You don’t know what that means
Because a kitchen sink to you
Is not a kitchen sink to me, OK friend?”
-Twenty One Pilots “Kitchen Sink”
My favorite music artists are the ones that write songs that I have no idea what they are about. At first glance, this song makes no sense. However, I love this song, because even though I do not know exactly what it means, I know it means something. This song, to me, is about experience and how different people have different experiences, and that impacts the way they see the world. To me, it is the mark of a true artist when a song elicits so much emotional connection and feeling from me even without completely outlining the circumstances of that response, whether it be a breakup, a death, etc. “Kitchen Sink” may not actually be about experience, but that what it is about to me, and it has a lot of meaning because of that in my life. The songs that give me freedom to interpret a message are the ones that stick out to me. However, when first listening to them, I may only like the beat or the emotion, though I feel clueless as to the message or meaning, because why would someone write a song about a kitchen sink.
That is how I felt after reading Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back” for the first time. Based on the detailed tattoo imagery, the ambiguous field scene, or the unexpected and depressing ending of the short story, I knew that there was a deeper meaning under the surface of the story, I just did not know how to dig it out. Immediately, though, I was impressed with the imagery. For a short story that does not have much action or really that complex of a plot, the imagery sucked me in immediately and made the most mundane of scenes vivid and interesting. After a class discussion that guided me towards the symbolism and meanings in the work, I was shocked at how much detail can be put into one short story. In Flannery O’Connor’s writing, most scenes, characters, and descriptions are all strategically placed to further the message, and in my case, they are virtually undetectable at first read. I understand “Parker’s Back” to be a story of spiritual transformation. Parker goes on a spiritual journey that he does not even know he needs and goes from actively trying to avoid God to accepting God’s pursuit of him and his destiny. He is paralleled to Christ in the short story, and his relationship with his wife is paralleled to the church. To me, it is the mark of an excellent author to be able to create an interesting read at first glance, and on second glance, or maybe fourth or fifth for people like me, a whole new world of meaning and a completely different story. Parker, in my interpretation, reflects more qualities of Jesus throughout the story than his supposedly religious wife does. This was not something that my class necessarily agreed with, but it is the way I read the story and find meaning in it. Just like musical artists, my favorite authors are the ones who write with the freedom to let me discover the meaning, but still can make a solid work of art without the reader understanding the message. Flannery O’Connor’s writing style was a pleasant surprise that followed these criteria, though when it was assigned as homework, I expected it to be dry and difficult to relate to.