O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away
Chapter 3 inserts Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away (1960) into contemporary bioethical discussions about the value of disabled lives. This novel portrays the murder of an intellectually disabled boy, Bishop, by his fourteen-year-old cousin, a murder that serves as the culmination of debates about his value staged in the novel. Considering points of view about the worth of intellectually disabled human beings expressed by O’Connor’s fictional characters alongside those expressed by Peter Singer and other philosophers and bioethicists, the chapter demonstrates a revealing convergence of (ableist) views held by the intensely secular Singer and the fervently Catholic O’Connor. In staging debates about Bishop’s worth in a rationalistic world, O’Connor accepts eugenic positions she purports to critique.
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