Flannery O’Conner’s ‘The Artificial Nigger’


The essence of prejudice and degradation are represented to a significant extent in O’Conner’s ‘The Artificial Nigger.’ People who just need to feel better about themselves but can only do it by being superior to someone else is repeated over and over. Mr. Head, the grandfather, is an example of one such individual. He is in competition with everyone he meets, regardless of their status.

Racism, for example, is one of O’Connor’s many methods to belittle others while uplifting his own self-esteem. The extreme depths to which a zealous racist is willing to go in terms of what makes up and motivates an adherent bigot are depicted by O’Conner.

The story is also a study of why some people are prejudiced. The grandfather’s racism is so ingrained in his personality that he does not see it as a flaw. The reader can observe how the grandfather’s racism affects those around him, including his grandson.

The grandson is a young, impressionable boy who looks up to his grandfather and takes his words to heart. The grandfather’s racism ultimately leads to the downfall of both himself and his grandson. The story highlights the dangers of prejudice and how it can destroy even the most innocent victim.

Mr. Head, a self-declared missionary, plans to bring his grandson Nelson to Atlanta City. Mr. Head’s subconscious motives are to have Nelson learn that his grandparent’s presence in his life is meaningful. He wants Nelson to rely on him and grow stronger as a result of it. Doing so would not only make him feel better about himself but also satisfy his own dependency needs.

The journey to Atlanta City is a long and difficult one. The two take the streetcar, which Mr. Head is not used to. They then have to walk for miles in the hot sun. Along the way, they pass by an old black man sitting on his porch. The grandfather tells Nelson that the man is “an artificial nigger”. The boy does not understand what this means, but he knows it is something bad.

When they finally reach their destination, Mr. Head is so tired that he can barely stand up. He takes Nelson into a store and buys him a drink. The storeowner asks if they are from out of town and when Mr. Head says they are, the storeowner tell them that they should go see the “Cabin in the Woods”. The storeowner says that it is a replica of a slave cabin and that it is very realistic.

Mr. Head and Nelson go to see the Cabin in the Woods and it is just as the storeowner said it was. It is a very realistic replica of a slave cabin. The two sit down inside and Mr. Head tells Nelson that this is what life was like for slaves. He then starts to cry and Nelson puts his arm around him.

After they leave the Cabin in the Woods, Mr. Head’s attitudes towards blacks have changed. He is no longer afraid of them and he even talks to a few of them on the way home. When they get home, Mr. Head tells his wife what a great time he had with Nelson and how much he has learned.

Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger” is a short story that deals with the issue of racism. The story centers around Mr. Head, a white man who takes his grandson, Nelson, on a trip to Atlanta City in order to introduce him to the focal point of his prejudice.

However, Mr. Head’s true motives for taking Nelson on the trip are revealed when he has a change of heart after visiting the Cabin in the Woods. This change of heart leads Mr. Head to realize that he has been prejudiced against blacks all his life and that they are just like him – human beings who deserve to be treated with respect.

Another method Mr.Head may feel tiny superior to others is by degrading anybody, particularly his own grandson. He welcomes and looks forward to the moment when Nelson doubts his intellect. Mr. Head makes a mockery of Nelson’s rationalisation when he arrives in the metropolis: ‘he will’ve been there two times,'(250) regarding Atlanta being his birthplace.

Mr. Head’s statements, on the other hand, had no basis in reality; they simply sounded logical because Nelson made sense logically. “Mr. Head had contradicted him.” Irony, a component of fiction, is first illustrated here as Mr.Head constantly accuses Nelson of being ignorant only to have his own ignorance exposed in every word he utters.

The grandfather’s racism is further explored when in a conversation with Mrs. Murphy, he emphasizes that black people are ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid.'(252) The lack of education and opportunity for African Americans is completely disregarded by Mr. Head, as if whites have not contributed to this inequality. The word ‘nigger’ is used several times throughout the story by Mr. Head as a derogatory term towards blacks, however he claims he is not racist.

The grandfather’s use of the slur indicates his lack of understanding of its consequences and power. In doing so, O’Connor reveals Mr. Head’s true colors: he is an uneducated man who believes what society has taught him about African Americans without critically thinking for himself. Furthermore, the grandfather’s use of the n-word leads to his eventual comeuppance.

The artificial nigger in question is a statue of a black man that Mr. Head and Nelson encounter on their journey. The statue is so lifelike that it scares Nelson, who thinks it is a real person. The statue represents the African American experience in the South during the time period in which the story was written. The statue is representative of how blacks were treated as less than human and viewed as property rather than people.

The artificial nigger is also representative of the false idea that whites were not racist. The grandfather’s interactions with the artificial nigger are representative of his interactions with real black people. He treats the statue with disrespect and mockery, just as he treats real black people. The artificial nigger is also representative of how whites saw blacks during this time period. They saw them as inferior and not worthy of respect or basic human dignity.

The story ends with the grandfather and Nelson getting lost in the city. They are forced to ask a black man for directions, which the grandfather is hesitant to do. The black man is helpful and kind, which contrasts with the grandfather’s view of blacks as lazy and stupid. The black man represents the reality of African Americans during this time period.

He is intelligent and capable, despite what the grandfather believes. The story ends with the grandfather realizing that he was wrong about blacks. He has a change of heart and sees them as humans worthy of respect. The story ends on a note of hope, with the grandfather realizing that racism is wrong and that blacks are just like him.

Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger” is a short story that addresses the issue of racism in the South during the time period in which it was written. The story follows Mr. Head and his grandson Nelson as they journey into the city. The story is told from the perspective of the grandfather, who is a racist.

The story ends with the grandfather having a change of heart and realizing that blacks are just like him. The story is important because it shedding light on the issue of racism in the South during this time period. It is also important because it shows how even a racist can change his views if he is open to it.


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