Doug Jones read Flannery O’Connor’s story, “Parker’s Back” at our weekly disputatio today. What a wonderful story! It includes a burning bush and theophany; a baptismal vigil that ends with the main character, O.E. Parker, bearing a tattooed picture of Jesus on his back; a temple-cleansing, when O.E. gets into a brawl at his old bar, which also leads to him being an outcast from his old community of drinking buddies; a naming scene, when O.E. finally identifies himself by his given name, Obadiah (“servant of Yah”) Elihu (“Yah is my God”) Parker; and a final scene where Parker’s wife beats the Jesus his bears on the face (which is on Parker’s back), bruising the tattooed face.
The amazing thing is that what could be over-wrought symbolism is effortlessly set in a story dominated by pathetic white-trash characters. The symbolism is pervasive but doesn’t intrude at all into the story, doesn’t stick out, doesn’t seem the least bit out of place.