When Flannery O'Connor began writing in the early 1950's, many reviewers assumed that she was little more than a talented female Erskine Caldwell, writing in the "Southern gothic" mode. And indeed her work was filled with freaks, one-armed con men, and pathological killers. By the time she died in 1964, serious readers of her fiction knew there was much more involved in her stories. What that "extra" was she called the "added dimension," that is, the spiritual depth which she believed was as an ineluctable part of human life. Her stories dramatize the ways in which the holy or the sacred break into human life with the result of shocking readers out of their spiritual somnolence using characters who appear to be possessed by the Devil and who commit acts of terrifying violence.
Browning bases his study of the works of O'Connor on the centrality of the yoking of opposites at the point where the opposites coincide, where violent crime and "attraction for the Holy" are held in tension, suggesting that out of this tension grew O'Connor's extraordinary creative power and unique vision. From this point of departure, Browning offers a detailed analysis of four O'Connor books: Wise Blood, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, The Violent Bear It Away, and Everything That Rises Must Converge.