The fiction of Flannery O'Connor is obviously concerned with the universal theology of traditional Christianity. Nonetheless, her work grew out of a specific historical and cultural place. An intellectual and socially-aware writer, O'Connor actively wove a pattern of social criticism, reflecting both her own specific cultural context and also the larger intellectual and moral traditions which served as the historical backdrop for her times, into her depiction of the operation of divinity. The expression of a materialist modernity in a consumerist America acts to distract humanity from the moral imperatives of Christian tradition, but it also leads into specific patterns of behavior and thought that corrupt the society.

Self-satisfaction combines with national fear overlayed on a historical background that denies all but the materially and immediately apparent to create a culture convinced of the efficacy of personal will as an ethical guide and personal satisfaction as an ultimate goal. O'Connor points out the logical conclusion of such a culture in the persona of the Misfit, whose honesty prevents him from finding satisfaction in the various artifices of his time and necessitates his turn to a nihilistic violence.

The cultural shock of violence and suffering initiate an awareness of the constructedness of immediate reality. Beyond that reality lies a universal Real, embodied in traditional Christianity. The alternative exists if individuals will turn from the social construction and acknowledge the vision of the universal.

O'Connor's vision of this universal truth comprises the primary focus of her work, yet in portraying it for an indifferent world, she, by necessity, first had to criticize and expose the flaws and failings of modern, consumerist America.