A Good Man is Hard to Find and The Necklace: Pride Goes Before the Fall
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor and “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant reveal two women with serious character flaws: excessive pride, all destroying hubris. Pride has perplexed philosophers and theologians for centuries; it is an especially complex emotion. It can be what we imagine we are: worthy, admirable, honest, infallible; and not necessarily who we are. We applaud individualism, self-respect, and personal excellence, but too much pride can easily tip the balance toward vanity, selfishness, and greed. Grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a manipulative character determined to get whatever she wants. Similarly, Mathilde in “The Necklace” is a resentful protagonist who feels like she deserves a better life. In both characters we see how excessive pride can be complicated by a lack of self-awareness and an inordinate self-esteem, which leads each woman to a ruinous outcome.
Grandmother in O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” considers herself morally superior to others by virtue of being a “lady.” In fact, she dresses up for road trips complete with white gloves and a hat. Unlike her daughter-in-law who wears slacks and ties her hair up with handkerchiefs. O’Connor writes, “Just in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know that she was once a lady” (1). She mourns the time of “nice people,” and frequently lectures her grandchildren about respect, respect “of their native states of their parents and everything else” (O’Connor 2). She manipulates her family and judges’ individuals based on their appearances and superficial behaviors. Grandmother uses the story of a criminal calling himself the Misfit to selfishly persuade the family from traveling to Florida. Ultimately, she ends up directing them right into his path by convincing her son, Bailey, to take a back road to see an old plantation she remembers. Grandmother also knows Bailey would never allow her cat, Pitty Sing, in hotel. However, she decides to hide him in a basket under her valise anyway. She calls Red Sammy a “good man” (3) simply because he gave two strangers free gas, which does not necessarily make him a good man. Ironically, she also refers to Misfit as a good man because of his calm demeanor and favorable appearance. Despite her assurance that she can judge a good man from a bad person, the grandmother fails to recognize that the Misfit is a ruthless killer. As much as Grandmother portrays herself as a good “lady,” her manipulative and selfish behavior costs the lives of her entire family – as well as her own.
Mathilde in Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is discontent with life. She is a pretty and charming girl who as if by a mistake of destiny was “born into a family of clerks” (Maupassant 1). Instead of living a grateful life, she feels cheated. She has many flaws, but most obvious are her greed for material things and inability to admit the truth. Her pride allows her to feel that she is entitled to the elegant life and she is angry that she cannot purchase the jewels and clothing that she desires. Maupassant writes, “She fretted constantly, feeling all things delicate and luxurious to be her birthright” (1). In addition to her desire for material things, she longs to be the object of others’ desires and to be envied by other women. Wishing to appear wealthy to the other women at the ball she buys a new dress and borrows a diamond necklace from a wealthy friend, which turns out to be harbinger of her demise. She had a wonderful time at the ball, ‘She was prettier than them all, lovely, gracious, smiling, and wild with delight’ (2). For a short time, she is living the life she deserves, “all of the Ministry wanted a waltz – even the Minister noticed her” (2). Mathilde loses the necklace and her pride keeps her from confessing the truth. Ultimately, it forces her into a decade of hard labor and debt in order to replace the cherished jewels. She sacrificed her husband and lost her youth due to her pride and lack of self-awareness.
Pride can be mystifying. Ordinarily it is considered a virtue, however, pride can be destructive. The Grandmother in O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” prides herself on being a moral, southern “lady,” yet she criticizes and frequently passes judgement on others. Similarly, Mathilde, in Maupassant’s “The Necklace” has an excessive sense of entitlement and thinks she is living in a world beneath her. In similar ways, both characters lack self-awareness and possess an inordinate self-esteem causing others in their lives to fall victim to their own pride.
- O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The World’s Best Short Stories: Anthology & Criticism. Flannery O’Connor. New York: Roth Publishing. 1990. https://bconline.broward.edu/d2l/le/content/407399/viewContent/10346413/View. Accessed 4 October 2019.
- Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” Little Masterpieces of Fiction. Guy de Maupassant. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company. 1904. https://bconline.broward.edu/d2l/le/content/407399/viewContent/10346414/View. Accessed 4 October 2019.
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