Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
A STROKE OF GOOD FORTUNE
This is one of the collection's shorter stories, and the structure is very simple. Ruby doesn't want to admit that she is pregnant, that her husband might have fooled her, that a child could be "good fortune." She can't think of anything more deadly than children, after watching her mother's struggle with difficult childbirths and dying children. For Ruby children mean defeat, not good fortune.
O'Connor has Ruby run into a series of "hints." When was Florida born? Where is the fountain of youth? Ruby is very concerned with aging and health. There's the toy pistol, and Laverne's teasing. And Bill Hill has "taken care of it all." (in a typical O'Connor detail, he sells "Miracle Products.") Ruby is a naive narrator: though she believes him, it is very clear to us that he has tricked her and is enjoying the result.
As in many of O'Connor's stories, the ending is rather tragic. Ruby does see, eventually, that she is pregnant, but she is horrified. This thing inside her is creepy and waiting to destroy her.
The major Themes in this story concern aging, worthlessness, and the horror of "good fortune." Ruby is constantly repeating her age to herself, and counting her health or lack thereof, and trying to work her mind around what she wants: to move to a subdivision as soon as possible. She looks young for her age, and thinks Rufus is still an infant. Ruby doesn't want to grow up.
Worthlessness is embodied in Rufus. She can't imagine why he would want collards after being in Europe. She thinks he won't make anything of himself--he already destroyed their mother. He hasn't moved beyond infancy for her. She believes that she is the only one of her siblings who is worth something--because she married Bill Hill and moved to the city and won't be making any children.
The story's title is ironic, as are many in the book. Ruby trusts Madame Zoleeda--who, like everyone else, can see that Ruby is pregnant. Of course, Ruby trusts Madame's predictions because she sees them her way: she will move to a subdivision. By the end of the story, it is clear that Ruby will not see her pregnancy as Good Fortune, but only as a stroke of bad luck.