There is an absolute theme of integration in “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’ Connor. Through the experience of reading this short story, we can depict the characters’ past experiences. There are two incompatible personalities in the passage, Mrs. Chestney, the mother, which represents the transition from the old South, and Julian, the son, who represents the transition of the new South. Due to the fact that Mrs. Chestney was the granddaughter of a governor, it purely conveys that she ranked high in wealth and position. This purely expresses her growing experience in a southern manner and to behave in a gentile southern manner. In relation to integration, Mrs. Chestney dismisses the plight of blacks with a southern response, “They should rise, yes, but on their own side of their fence”. This attitude most likely resulted from being taught to talk this way all her life. Although she makes thoughtless remarks, her genuine affection for her childhood nurse Caroline, shows that she has no real malice towards the black race. There is a repetition of the words “meet yourself coming and going”, in which she implicates her kind, as the party responsible for the tension between black and whites. In fact, what she really means is that, “we dominated this race of people”, and feels threatened by it. Also, Mrs. Chestney truly meets her match when the black woman who boards the bus with her son refuses her charity. Julian becomes overjoyed when he notices that the woman’s hat is identical to his mother’s. Thus, Mrs. Chestney fears materialize- she truly “meets herself coming and going”.
Mrs. Chestney doesn’t open her mind to face reality, but instead is looking for a deeper message than what is offered in Julian’s sermon on race relations. She wants to return to the sweet smelling mansion of her childhood that she views as a “safe heaven” where she will be welcomed. She regresses to childhood calling out, “Tell Grandpa to come get me,” Tell Caroline to come get me.” This purely indicates that the mother is still living in the past. In opposition though, Julian is obsessed with the idea of integration, and thus indicates that he was brought up completely different than his mother. He experiences life and race relations completely different as opposed to his mother. For example, “he daydreams about making black friends, and even bringing home a black lover.” This statement is impossible, mainly because of his refusal to deal with the outside world and “the general idiocy of his fellow.” “Julian lives” in the inner compartment of his mind… safe from any kind of penetration from without.” His view of the world is too cynical and ironically every attempt he makes with the blacks fails. What can be conclude of Julian is that he had an absence of heart, which blatantly depicts his past, but when his mother dies, the love that he was unable to express comes out when he cries, “Darling, sweetheart, wait.” In conclusion, Mrs. Chestney was trying to make the past present and that caused many conflicts between her son and herself. Since she was obsessed with her past way of living, she was trying to convince her son to follow her idiosyncrasy, but Julian was following his mind, not his mother’s heart.