Generations of the Fall
Original Sin in the Writings of Robert Penn Warren
by Michael M. Jordan
Flannery O’Connor’s remarks in Mystery and Manners about the “Christ-haunted” South and her claim that “Drama usually bases itself on the bedrock of original sin, whether the writer thinks in theological terms or not” (44, 167) are easily applied to the work of her fellow Southern writer Robert Penn Warren. Although Warren was not a Christian—he called himself a “non-believer” and a “yearner” (Robert Penn Warren Talking, 204)—he had a religious temperament and utilized Christian concepts in his imaginative literature. His South is not Christ-centered, but it is haunted by a memory of the moral and spiritual teachings of the Christian faith. This is especially evident in the role sin (Original Sin and actual sin) plays in his work. He based many of his dramas on the bedrock of Original Sin, and images and symbols of Original Sin and characters haunted by sin abound in his poetry and fiction.
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