A Good Man Is Hard To Find
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.
The Feeling of Exile in Invisible Man
Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic Edward Said claims that “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience…” In Ralph Elison’s The Invisible Man, the narrator experiences this feeling of exile due to the racism found in American society. Throughout the novel, the narrator struggles to form his own identity, which ultimately culminates in his conclusion that he is invisible. Initially, the narrator accepts and follows the preconceived views and limitations placed upon him as a result of racial prejudice. As the novel progresses, however, the narrator begins to question his tactic of living a life of passiveness and invisibility. Like Edward Said, who believed that exile could be horrific but also could become “a potent, even enriching” experience, the narrator’s alienation spurs him to become more proactive in society. He becomes more involved in society and acts on his own behalf, forcing others to acknowledge him and accept his actions outside of their prejudiced expectations.
Over the course of the entire novel, the narrator struggles in accepting the various viewpoints and racial expectations he encounters. From his experience at the Battle Royale — where he is degraded as entertainment for the white men—to his involvement in the Brotherhood—where he discovers he is being used as a token to gain more supporters — the narrator discovers the effects his skin color has on people’s perception of him. The narrator explains, “Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility” (Ellison 6). Rather than having the ability to define himself, the narrator discovers that his blackness seems to encompass his entire identity and how the world sees him. As a result of this, the narrator proclaims himself as an “invisible man;” he has effectively decided that the entire world is full of blind people who refuse to give him a chance and see him for what he truly is. It is in this way that the narrator effectively exiles himself from being himself, as he no longer views himself as a valuable human being.
Not only does the narrator feel entirely disconnected from himself, but he also ends up completely disconnected from society. After escaping his situation with Ras, the narrator is confronted by two police officers who are concerned with the contents of his briefcase. When the narrator tries to run from them, he falls down a manhole. Once underground, the narrator is forced to burn the contents of his briefcase as a source of light and heat; these include items such as the Sambo doll and the paper with his Brotherhood title on it, amongst other things. Each of the items in the briefcase, as well as the briefcase itself, symbolize times when others tried to define the narrator’s identity. When the narrator finally burns these items, he metaphorically and figuratively breaks from his past; he no longer has to physically carry the briefcase, and he no longer metaphorically has to carry the guilt and baggage of his past. Once he finally burns the bridges that keep him linked to his past, the narrator explains, “I could only move ahead or stay here, underground. So I would stay here until I was chased out… I would take up residence underground” (Ellison 443).While the narrator is finally able to move on from the past, he decides to start a new life in the secluded underground. Ultimately, the narrator accepts his exile to the underground, as he refuses to live in a racist world where he is unable to define himself outside of his race.
After telling his story of exile and recounting all of the events that forced him into living a life underground, the narrator finally grows to accept his past. As the narrator tells his story to readers, he begins to recognize that he allowed others to define the importance of his experiences. The narrator then decides that he can define his identity and experiences without the views of others, and that he can finally become a complex and independent individual within a society filled with conformity. The narrator then goes on to explain, “I’m coming out, no less invisible without it, but coming out nevertheless…Perhaps that’s my greatest social crime, I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play” (Ellison 451). The narrator’s sudden interest in returning above ground to society is that he believes he can finally contribute to society as an individual, and add aspects of diversity to a society run rampant with racism and conformist beliefs. Although clearly still intimidated by coming out from his “hibernation,” it is evident that through living in exile the narrator has discovered that by living in solitude he has fulfilled the desires of those living underground. He finally recognizes that his approach of defying society by distancing himself from it is too passive, and he must make changes to it himself. The narrator comes up from underground as a man who is willing to question the ideals of society in order to make changes, and is a man who is ready to learn from his experiences.
Throughout the novel, the narrator experiences both the hardships and triumphs of exile, ultimately becoming a more independent and self-aware human being. Through his experiences at the Liberty Paints plant and involvement in the Brotherhood, the narrator discovers the prescribed limits of being an African American man in American society. Initially, the narrator accepts these roles and lives a life of “invisibility.” Although he lives a life of solitude and is unable to live to his truest self whilst exiled underground, he is also unable to abide to the expectations of white men. After finally coming to terms with what has forced him into exile underground, the narrator recognizes the detrimental affects living a life of solitude has had on his character and motivations. The narrator finally decides to come up from the underground, having discovered that while living life invisibly prevents others’ attempts to define him, it also stops him from being able to define himself through discovering his own identity.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find: a Journey Of a Family’s Road Trip
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” Short Story Analysis
Many authors use a theme of religion in their pieces. Using religion, an author can go many routes: a path of atonement, self discovery, or even the realization of one’s faith. In Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the reader follows the journey of a family’s road trip and their unfortunate encounter with a penitentiary escapee, The Misfit. The story centers around a morally corrupt and self righteous grandmother’s spiritual revelation after meeting The Misfit, who is a questioning and seemingly religious man. O’Connor uses The Misfit as a symbolic representation of faith and his interaction with the grandmother to show salvation and grace are open to everyone.
The Misfit plays the biggest religious role in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” He relates himself directly to Jesus when saying they both have “thrown everything off balance” but quickly counters that idea when explaining, unlike him, Jesus “hadn’t committed any crime” (1221). The Misfit’s comparison of himself to a figure of faith is the largest indicator that he symbolizes religion in this short story, even though he dismisses the idea immediately after. His comparison shows he is questioning his own religious values, since people do not usually compare themselves to things they think have no relation or value to them. By dismissing his own comparison, it shows The Misfit thinks of himself as someone who is “below” a religious figure and not worthy. He believes the fact he has committed crimes makes him a criminal and therefore inferior to someone like Jesus. His direct comparison and then counter hint at the idea that his unrealized faith and importance will impact the story, foreshadowing to his revelation with the Grandmother. The reader also learns The Misfit was once a gospel singer, showing he has a religious background. Throughout the entire encounter with The Misfit, he repeatedly states he has been serving time for crimes he did not commit with statements like “I known that was a lie” and “I never had anything to do with it” (1220). Punishment for unremembered sins alludes to the early Christian belief of the “original sin.” This belief states that all faith followers are born sinners, and must live their lives trying to be saved by God. By admitting he is being punished for things he never did, The Misfit subliminally acknowledges he is living his life with an “original sin.” The self proclaimed nickname of “The Misfit” is also a symbol of a religious figure. The Misfit says he calls himself The Misfit “because [he] can’t make what all [he] done wrong fit what all [he] gone through as punishment,” further relating back the belief of an original sin (1221). This also introduces the idea of The Misfit’s nickname being symbolic of Jesus, as Jesus was seen as an outcast. Just as Jesus wasn’t well received by the public, loved “all the wrong people,” and ate dinner with sinners, The Misfit doesn’t have a good reputation with common people and hangs out with other criminals who further get him in trouble. O’Connor’s choice to use a murderer as her symbol for Jesus creates irony and emphasizes the idea salvation is a possibility for everyone, because if a vicious, sinful murderer can reach atonement so can anyone else. Near the end of The Misfit’s encounter with the grandmother, she tries one last time to change his mind by opening her arms and coming towards him. He reacts by “[springing] back as if a snake had bitten him” and shooting her (1222). By describing his actions like a snake, it creates a biblical allusion to the Garden of Eden. The snake in the Garden of Eden is a deceptive creature who promotes what God has forbidden. This deceptiveness and evil is directly relevant to how The Misfit lives. The temptation the Grandmother creates shows him what life could be like if he chooses to leave his life of sin and become more of a godly figure, while The Misfit shows the Grandmother she is no more holy than he is. This scares The Misfit so greatly he reacts dramatically by killing her.
The relationship developed between The Misfit and the grandmother shows the possibility of atonement and salvation. The grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” holds herself on a moral pedestal much higher than those around her. She dresses fancy for a simple family road trip just so “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her… would know at once that she was a lady” (1212). She repeatedly tells the children they must show respect but calls a young African American a “nigger boy” (1215) and another boy a “cute little pick ninny” (1216), revealing her true colors. When she is about to be killed, she tells The Misfit he would never kill her since she “knows [he] wouldn’t ever shoot a lady” (1222). Along with her complaining when not getting her way and even bringing her cat on the trip against her son’s wishes, she is presented as a selfish and self-righteous person. It is not until the very end of the story, right before The Misfit kills her, that she realizes her faults. Throughout her talk with The Misfit, she talks about religion and Jesus, even though she never talks about those in the beginning of the story. She exclaims “pray, pray… “ (1220) and “Jesus would help you” (1221) when trying to save her own life. The grandmother only talks of religion when wanting to save herself. This further shows her selfishness. It also relates to The Misfit being a religious figure since she did not seem to be deeply religious until the two met. Right before the grandmother is shot, she reaches out to The Misfit almost screaming, “You’re one of my own children!” and dies “with her legs crossed under her like a child… her face smiling up at the cloudless sky” (1222). This act is extremely out of character and the focal point of the entire story. By exclaiming he is one of her own, it symbolizes the moment she realizes she is as much of a sinner as he is and reaches out in hopes of forgiveness. The thought of a child’s crossed legs and looking up into the sky allude to atonement, since children are generally seen as innocent, and looking up into the sky is generally associated with heaven and praying. The grandmother ends her time on earth in a spiritual revelation caused by The Misfit.
Pieces of literature centered around religion can hold great importance and ultimate truth. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” The Misfit’s symbolic faith helps the grandmother to help find peace within herself, even though he is far from an innocent man. No character in this story was without sin, but all had a chance to be saved. By writing this story, O’Connor shows salvation and grace are open to whoever may come by them, and even on the brink of death, it is never too late to be saved.
Irony As a Main Stylistic Device in a Good Man Is Hard to Find
Authors often use irony in order to place their characters into tricky situations in which they must make a decision, which often reveals more about their true self. Flannery O’Connor was a southern gothic, and grotesque writer who is known for her strong use of irony and distortion. In her book, The Complete Stories, O’Connor uses numerous rhetorical devices, but most notable is her use of irony. O’Connor’s use of irony is most prominent in her short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, and The Life You Save May Be Your Own. In the short story A Good Man is Hard to Find, there is an overwhelming amount of irony that leads to foreshadowing, which helps the protagonist come into contact with her moment of grace. In O’Connor’s The Life You Save May Be Your Own, there is an inordinate amount of both, dramatic and situational irony, throughout the story, again prompting the protagonist to face his moment of grace. O’Connor’s use of irony within her short stories helps the protagonists of the stories to face their moment of grace, while at the same time teaches a moral lesson to her readers, and those characters in contact with their moments of grace.
In the short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, O’Connor presents irony throughout the story in order to help the protagonist to face her moment of grace. The narrator starts the story by saying, “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida” (O’Connor 117). Shortly after, the family learns about an escaped prison convict who is also headed towards Florida. At this moment, the reader can begin to foreshadow that something bad is going to happen because the grandmother doesn’t want to go, and because one of the family members happened to stumble upon an article about the Misfit heading to Florida. The grandmother reluctantly decides to go with the rest of the family to Florida. On the way to Florida, the family stops for food, and while they are eating, the grandmother asks if anyone has heard about The Misfit. The owner of the restaurant says to the grandmother, “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he didn’t attack this place right here” (122). O’Connor is again foreshadowing an encounter with The Misfit, and it is rather ironic because as the reader knows, the family will run into the misfit who will eventually kill them all. After the family leaves the restaurant, the Grandmother recalls an old, nearby plantation that she visited when she was young, and convinces the family to take a detour to go look at it. On the way to the plantation, the family gets into a car accident and they all get out on the side of the road. Shortly after their accident, a car drives by and stops next to them, with none other than The Misfit in it. This situation is ironic for a number of reasons. First, the only reason the family went down the deserted dirt road, and got into a car accident was because the grandmother had told the family that she knew of a scenic plantation she wanted to show the children, but just before the accident, the grandmother realized that the road they were headed on was not the right road to get to the plantation the grandmother had had in mind, in fact, they weren’t even in the same state as the plantation. One of the most ironic lines in the story is when the eight year old boy, John Wesley says to the grandmother, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” (117). At the time, the family had no idea that they would encounter The Misfit during their travels, but it is ironic that the grandmother is the one who didn’t want to go in the first place, was the one who was constantly talking about The Misfit, and was the one who ultimately directed the family right into The Misfit’s path. When The Misfit and his companions hold the family at gunpoint, the grandmother begins to speak with The Misfit, in an attempt to save her life, but not her own families. The grandmother says things that she thinks The Misfit would want to hear such as when she says, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (132). This is an example of dramatic irony because in this instance one would expect the grandmother to plead for the lives of her family, but instead she disregards them as they are being directed into the woods by gunpoint, and only pleads for her own life. This prompts the grandmother’s moment of grace, which she willingly accepts.
In the story, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, there are copious amounts of irony throughout. The most evident, and physical example of irony is Mr. Shiftlet himself. Upon his arrival to the farm, the old woman describes him as “a tramp and no one to be afraid of” (145), but as the reader learns shortly after, he is not so innocent and not so normal. Mr. Shiftlet, the protagonist, is physically disabled because he only has one arm. The old woman’s daughter, Lucynell, is both deaf and mute, and is not self dependent, thus she relies on her mother for daily care. The farm which Mr. Shiftlet comes across is in a desolate, barely populated spot, which makes it strange that a random man would stumble upon it, but what makes this situation rather ironic is that both Mr. Shiftlet and Lucynell have physical handicaps. This is the first of many instances of irony in the short story. Throughout the story, the reader is made aware of the old woman, Mrs. Crater, and her desire for a son-in-law. Mrs. Crater desires a son-in-law for a number of reasons: to provide a sense of safety and security, to take care of her precious daughter, and to “save” her daughter from a life of loneliness. Eventually, Mrs. Crater gets exactly what she wishes for, a son-in-law, but she does not get exactly what she had expected. Mr. Shiflet takes his new wife on a honeymoon, but on the way abandons her at a diner, and steals their car. This entire scene is full of situational irony because Mrs. Crater and the reader believe that Lucynell was being saved from her loneliness, and emptiness by Mr. Shiftlet, but really she was being taken advantage of and left to be lonely once more. At the end of the short story, O’Connor presents more irony when the narrator says, “Mr. Shiftlet felt that the rottenness of the world was about to engulf him. He raised his arm and let it fall again to his breast (156)…”Break forth and wash the slime from this earth!” (156), Mr. Shiftlet said. This is ironic because shortly after he says this, there is a huge rainstorm that chases him away, implying that he is the “slime from this earth.” This ironic instance prompts Mr. Shiftlet to face his moment of grace, after he is driving down the road to Mobile, Alabama. Mr. Shiftlet realizes his moment of grace as he is driving away from the diner; he thinks about what he just did, but he ultimately rejects this moment of grace, and continues on in the car, towards Mobile.
Through her varying use of irony, O’Connor is able to develop her characters, and lead them to their moment of grace in each of her short stories. When the characters face irony in the stories, it brings out their true colors, which often creates more dramatic irony for the reader and prompts them to face their moment of grace. O’Connor’s use of irony fits right into her well-known writing style, and prompts both characters and readers to think about the bigger picture, the moment of grace and its meaning.
Levels Of “Goodness” And “Evilness” in The Book a Good Man Is Hard to Find
Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is the engrossing tale of a Grandmother and her killer locked in the emotional climax of a story that would’ve otherwise been the altogether unremarkable tale of a family’s vacation. This dialogue is what allows for an intriguing look at the gradient levels of “goodness” and “evilness” we find within ourselves and others, as Desmond asserts: “Good and evil, as potentialities and as actualities, are inextricably inter-twined in human beings, and this is true for both the Grandmother and the Misfit.” (Desmond). From start to finish O’Connor explores this idea, writing her characters with care and passion.
O’Connor’s modus operandi was truth telling. She never shied from the gruesome, ugly realities of life, rather she embraced them, holding fast till they took her to their logical ends. The author York describes this as a desire to have her work felt more than simply read:
“O’Connor, however, does not seem to excuse the violence or cover it up, but rather uses violence because it is both true to her “felt life” experience and necessary to bring her characters and readers to a point at which they can transcend the text to some “impossible” reading – a reading which, for a writer with a “Christian view of the world,” is not simply “impossible” and mysterious, but “felt,” much like glory and grace themselves.” (York.)
Looking under this lens, the end of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is indeed quite logical to anyone who had been paying attention to the mention of the escaped “Misfit,” or to the very specifically developed character traits that are brought up. While difficult to see at first, the reader soon comes to realize that the Grandmother’s disconcerting lack of self-awareness, and potential towards rather intense irksomeness, is in fact a critical aspect of the story. O’Connor didn’t include those traits quickly, nor with the goal of rushing through them, but, relative to the length of the story, slowly cultivated them through multiple scenes. The car ride, the start of the epic journey that will lead to the family’s demise, is perhaps the earliest scene where this point is truly sunk in. One especially cutting moment from that ride leaves a lasting impact upon the reader for its combination of irony and foreshadowing:
“‘In my time,’ said the Grandmother, ‘children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!’ she said and pointed to a negro child standing in the door of a shack. ‘Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?’” (Meyer 357).
The Grandmother’s seeming care for manners is overshadowed by her lack of empathy for the child, seeing him as nothing but more of the landscape. She viewed the child as a means towards furthering her status, all the while ignoring her own lecture on manners and caring. The astounding lack of self-awareness was built as a critical component to her character, and is one of the most obvious traits directly involved in the family’s demise. Perhaps had she been more self-aware she could’ve understood that to recognize The Misfit for who he truly was would be a death sentence to her and her family. Yet even that situation she viewed as a means for furthering her status, unaware that it would all together fail to do so. When she shouted: “You’re the Misfit!” she said. “I recognized you at once!” (Meyer 362), there comes this sense of eagerness, of pride even, that the she seems to get when blurting out that she had recognized him, the Misfit, from the very start.
This combination of self-centeredness with a lack of self-awareness is what creates such a unique and interesting dynamic with The Misfit. Bandy’s description of this dynamic is critical:
“What harm finally comes of her simpleminded preoccupation with herself? The answer to that question, it seems to me, is the key to this story, and it becomes clear only when she is face-to-face with the Misfit. He too is a person who lives only for himself, yet knowing that (as he angrily chastises the uncomprehending Bobby Lee) ‘It’s no real pleasure in life’ (133). But the Misfit has at least this advantage over the Grandmother: he knows who he is.” (Stephen).
The Misfit lives as selfish a life as the Grandmother, yet the critical difference is that he is self-aware. If you were to ask the Grandmother if she considered herself a good woman then your answer would most certainly be a hearty yes followed by a lecture on why people in her day and of her caliber tended to be good. William Bonney described her attitude best: “Self-righteously superior, she therefore can justify all of her own behavior” (Bonney). Yet when the Grandmother goes insisting The Misfit is indeed a good man, he reveals a surprisingly humble view on himself: “Nome, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second as if he had considered her statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither.” (Meyer 363). O’Connor implanted the Misfit with this ability to recognize his own faults so that he would be capable of growth, while she kept it from the Grandmother to allow her in the end to be able to look past her numerous shortcomings in order to make some valid points which will eventually lead to the Misfit’s growth. In O’Connor’s book “Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose” she makes it clear this was her intent with the characters:
“I don’t want to equate the Misfit with the devil. I prefer to think that, however unlikely this may seem, the old lady’s gesture, like the mustard-seed, will grow to be a great crow-filled tree in the Misfit’s heart, and will be enough of a pain to him there to turn him into the prophet he was meant to become. But that’s another story.” (Mystery and Manners 113).
The Grandmother, in attempting to save herself, makes four assertions that will result in what O’Connor hopes will be a change of heart:
She tells him that he couldn’t possibly kill a lady (notice that is a singular “lady”), as her daughter-in-law sobs. She tells him to settle down, as her own domestic life is brought to an end with the death of her son and grandson. She tells him to pray for forgiveness, even as she is faced with the reality that it is her that ought to be praying for forgiveness. As she goes on, the Misfit answers her in ever increasing pain, as Hendricks put it: “This speech brings the Misfit to an emotional pitch. The Misfit’s voice seems to the grandmother about to break; in a moment of clarity she concludes that he is open to a final, emotional appeal.” (Hendricks). As the corpses of her children begin a slow decomposition into nothingness, she makes her final assertion: The very one responsible, the Misfit himself, is her child. As she reaches for him, his gun goes off three times directly into her chest.
O’Connor knew from the start what her story would be. The death of the family was set in stone, as was the Grandmother’s desperate attempt to change that. This is what causes the story to be one of tragedy, but also of beauty and grace. The Grandmother had to be terrible and self-centered, and the Misfit had to look past that. They saw the realities in each other: She saw his potential for salvation, and he saw hers. In doing so, the reader bears witness to the agony of the event, and sees theirs, too.
Bright Examples of the Use of Foreshadowing in Literature
The Enhancement of Foreshadowing
“The sky poured as if weeping for lost loved ones.” Reading this sentence brings death to mind. This sort of sentence is used as foreshadowing, which is a literary device used in a majority of stories. The stories “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, and “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne are filled with wonderful examples of foreshadowing. The best uses for foreshadowing is to add tension, make parts of the story believable, or even to mislead the reader.
The first way of using foreshadowing as a literary enhancement would be to add tension to the story. The point of using foreshadowing this way is to give the reader anxiety or excitement for what is to come. The story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor has a perfect example of this use of foreshadowing. This short story is about a family who is travelling on vacation when they run into an escaped convict nicknamed The Misfit. Flannery foreshadows this meeting at the very beginning of the story quite obviously. The grandmother tells everyone in the story “…this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida…” (O’Connor 137), which is where the family is heading. The reader can assume from this sentence that The Misfit will be met later, and that he will have an important part of the story. Later in the story they meet Red Sammy and his wife who states, “If he hears about it being here, I wouldn’t be none surprised to see him.” (O’Connor 142) Which gives off the idea that the characters are getting closer to meeting The Misfit.
Another use of foreshadowing is to help make certain parts of the story more believable. Often times things happen in stories that might not make sense without prior background information. The best example of this is in the short story “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. This short story is about the death of Louise Mallard due to the shock of her husband’s undeath. Chopin includes in the very first sentence that “…Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken…” (Chopin) which brought into light some very important information. Josephine even shows how concerning Louise’s heart condition was with her statement that “…you will make yourself ill” (Chopin) when Louise begins acting oddly. Not only does it suggest that something negative will happen because of her heart condition, but it also makes her death more believable. If we didn’t know she had previous heart trouble then her death at the end would seem odd and unrealistic.
A third way to boost a story with foreshadowing would be to mislead the reader with information that feels important. This is often used to confuse the reader and make the story more shocking when the truth is revealed. The story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne provides a good use of this type of foreshadowing. This short story is about a man named Goodman Brown who leaves his innocent new wife at home as he goes to meet the devil in the woods. The story makes a lot of references to Goodman’s wife, Faith, and her pretty pink ribbons. As Goodman leaves to go meet the devil “…he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.” (Hawthorne) This gives the image of him leaving behind something sweet and innocent in favor of something dark and sinister. This is what made the reveal of Faith being at this meeting so surprising. The pink ribbons are left out upon Goodman seeing her at the ceremony, “…[he] cast one look at his pale wife…” (Hawthorne) is all that is mention. This, in itself, is symbolism of her innocence being replaced.
In conclusion, foreshadowing a very useful tool that can add tension, make parts of the story believable, or even to mislead the reader. These types of foreshadowing make a story more fun to read and more complex. Without this type of literary enhancement mystery novels would be very boring. A common trope used with foreshadowing is that the end is usually foreshadowed in the beginning. This is true in a majority of the stories mentioned. Foreshadowing is just fun little Easter eggs that are left in stories to bring entertainment and excitement.
Review of Flannery O’Connor’s Book, a Good Man Is Hard to Find
A Unique Combination
The overall mood of a story influences the feeling of the audience after they have read it. If the story has a positive mood, complemented by a comfortable setting and happy relationships between the characters, the audience will be left feeling good. If the mood is negative, with elements such as an eerie setting or unsettling characters, the audience will be left feeling uncomfortable, upset, or possibly sad. In her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, Flannery O’Connor blends the humorous with the disturbing, resulting in a very interesting and unique effect. The combination of the humorous elements with the disturbing elements enhanced the story’s disturbing nature, because these two contrasting feelings are usually not used together in the way that O’Connor has used them.
Initially, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a humorous narrative of a dysfunctional family going on a road trip. The first half introduces us to a naggy grandmother, a grumpy father, a quiet mother, and two sassy children; the perfect setup for a humorous narrative. Throughout the first half of the story, the reader is entertained by the conversations between the grandmother and the children. An example of this is when the grandmother was telling the story about the man who gave her a watermelon every Saturday. June Star responded to this story by saying she wouldn’t marry someone just because they brought her a watermelon every saturday. It is this type of banter between the children and the grandmother that accounts for most of the comedic element in the story.
Some of the humor of the story distracts the reader from some important foreshadowing; whenever the grandmother talks about the Misfit, the topic is deflected by a witty comment from one of the kids. For example, when the grandmother asks John Wesley what he would do if he met the Misfit, John Wesley says, “I’d smack his face.” This absurd comment momentarily distracts the reader from the threat of the Misfit.
After the car rolls over, the story takes a turn for the dark and disturbing. After the children shout excitedly, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!”, a car pulls over to help them. However, it doesn’t take the grandmother long to realize that one of the people in the car is the Misfit, the very criminal that she was trying to warn her family about. After her realization, the Misfit begins having the two boys with him take the family, a couple at a time, into the woods and killing them. Meanwhile, he is talking to the grandmother, who keeps saying that he is “a good man”, and that he is “not a bit common.” She also keeps telling him to pray, and that Jesus will help him. At this point, the Misfit begins talking about how he wishes he was there when Jesus raised the dead; this goes on until he shoots the grandmother. The story has shifted from humorous to disturbing with the addition of only one major character; no other elements of the story, like the setting or the structure, changed to accompany the dark side of the story.
It is this unsettling blend of humor and darkness that makes this story unlike most other stories, television shows, or movies. Generally, a story sticks to one mood, whether it be dark and unsettling or jovial and funny. The other elements of the stories, like the characters, setting, and use of language, are all used to influence the overall feeling and the theme; they all work together to create a certain feeling in a story. When these elements don’t seem to be working in sync with each other, it can have a disturbing effect; “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is an example of this effect. The setting helped establish the humorous mood of the story in the beginning, but in the end, when disturbing characters were introduced, the setting was still described exactly the same as it was in the beginning. The discord between story elements is what makes the story more disturbing.
Overall, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a story that creates a unique feeling for the audience by combining humor with darkness. Initially it is a humorous story, but with the addition of some dark characters, it is transformed into a disturbing story, making it different from most stories that we encounter.
Evaluation of the Ending in Flannery O’Connor’s Book, a Good Man Is Hard to Find
Flannery O’Connor’s most esteemed short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, ends conveniently coincidentally as well as gruesomely graphic. The book ends with a painfully lengthy climax, leaving readers with no definite resolution: The illusive and infamous “Misfit” (whose criminal presence has been known since the first page of the story) meets the grandmother and her family on an isolated dirt road in a rural area of Georgia. The family had “an ACCIDENT” (O’Connor p.12) and resultantly flipped their car into a ditch, immobile and vulnerable. The Misfit and his entourage arrive at the scene minutes later, and take members of the family one by one into the forest where they are killed. Finally, The Misfit himself and the grandmother are left alone. In a time of desperation, with her impending fate staring her in the face, the grandmother tries to convince the Misfit to let her live. She attempts to compel him through religion, hoping that if maybe she can restore faith within this corrupt and blasphemous man, he will become righteous and let her go. This ploy is unsuccessful and The Misfit kills the grandmother.
The incline towards the climax begins on page 13, “…they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them” (O’Connor 13). The mood of the story changes noticeably at this point from nonchalant and charming to a sudden tone of suspicion and threat. Because the story ends at a climax, the ending of the story also begins at this moment. The most prominent and most defined moment of climax in the story manifests itself in the dialogue directly prior to the grandmother’s death, in which a stark contrast is created between the grandmother’s fervent and desperate religious pleas and The Misfit’s (comparatively) calm rebuttal.
The ending to this story is clearly foreshadowed in it’s earlier pages. The Misfit appears immediately as a prominent character in the story, “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed towards Florida” (O’Connor 1). The story is set surrounding a car journey from Georgia to Florida, and the matriarch of the family is understandably wary of their destination after reading about the AWOL criminal in the paper.
While the story does not truly reach a satisfying resolution, the grandmother does find peace in the moment before her death with the sudden realization that, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (O’Connor 22). Contrastingly, The Misfit finds no real solace in killing the grandmother, which he previously thought would be satisfying, “It’s no real pleasure in life” (O’Connor 23). This juxtaposition lends itself to the theme that is, grace and faith are found in only the direst situations and only to those who truly need it. In a her desperate state, the grandmother presents an absurd argument in which she attempts to convince The Misfit not to kill her by praising his family’s status and his religious upbringing. In the face of a convicted murderer, this argument is futile and her words become ridiculous. Her last words are arguably her most ludicrous, but in a sense, her most honest, genuine and truthful. Another possible theme is the notion that perhaps life on earth is so corrupt and the search for holistic, religious, contentment is so futile that only true peace can be found in heaven rather than on Earth. After all- there is no real pleasure in life and a good man is essentially impossible to find. Happiness and justice cannot be found by the most religiously righteous and self-proclaimed upstanding members of society (the grandmother) or for even the most corrupt and abhorrent people (The Misfit). Perhaps it is not so that a good man is hard to find, but that for man, a good life is hard to find.
“The River” ends equally as tragically as “A Good Man is Hard to Find” but with perhaps a more subdued climax. Harry/Bevel Ashfield returns to the river where he had been baptized the previous day and told that he now “counts”. Finding a peculiar form of salvation through this process, Harry departs from his house alone to pursue this feeling, this process, this place. Unbeknownst to Harry, he is being followed by an (implied) pedophile, Mr Paradise. Harry tries to recreate the feeling he felt the day before after being baptized in an attempt to achieve a sense of wholeness he does not possess in his home life but which he has been given a taste of through religion and faith. He attempts to do this by the only way he has known before, which is to submerge himself in water. However this time, Harry does not come back up. Harry is swept away by the current and drowns before Mr. Paradise can harm him.
The climactic moment of the story is when Harry reaches the river. In a metaphorical sense, this destination and Harry’s arrival there mirror that of a pilgrimage to holy land. Harry is drawn to the river by a spiritual, inexplicable force. His journey is -practically- impossible for a four year old, but accomplished by means of some sort of divine aid. The journey itself (when Harry leaves his house initially) is where the ending of the story begins. When Harry reaches the river, he is able at home in a way that he cannot when he is literally at home. He is drawn to this phenomenon, entranced by this yearning for belonging to the extent that he does not realize the sinister plot taking shape behind his back. His death, however, is not described as climactic but rather as peaceful, and written in such a way that forced readers to simply accept it.
The climax of the story is not foreshadowed prominently, however the ending as a whole is prophesied. Harry is immediately taken by the scene at the river the day before his death, suggesting that he may return to the place he was so drawn to. The next morning, the pull towards the river strengthened, “Very slowly, his expression changed as if he were gradually seeing appear what he didnt know he’d been looking for. Then all of a sudden he knew what he wanted to do” (O’Connor 46).
A possible theme of “The River” is identical to one of “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Earth is such an abhorrent place that God will save those who are truly good and faithful by bringing them to Heaven. Harry is a victim of neglect at home, taken advantage of by Mrs. Connin’s sons, and was a potential victim of molestation or worse. However, Harry is saved before he can fall victim to a fate worse than death. Coincidentally, Harry is also saved after he has become a bonafide Christian through means of baptism. Harry was not saved by neglect or victimization before he was baptized, despite the fact that he was still in need of saving. Only after he has found God does Harry get saved, and taken out of a world that has subjected him to petty yet detrimental injustices. God can save those who need saving, and take them out of a despicable world into a utopian one, but only after they have fully committed themselves to Him.
Another theme is: Some people find God through inexplicable experiences, but complimentarily, God finds those who are in need of God and who are willing to accept him. Harry’s parents, while made out to be slovenly and probably “in need of God”, are not willing to accept him or have reason to search for his presence. Mrs. Connin, while also imperfect, has experienced great illness in her husband, and has opened herself up to god, subsequently finding solace and a sense of happiness and righteousness. Harry is constantly victimized in his life, and is almost blatantly searching for some form of reconciliation subconsciously. Those who are willing to accept God will find him. God will find those who need him. The connection between God and those whom he saves is cultivated equally by both parties involved. This is a mantra I imagine circulating through the minds of Mrs. Connin, Harry, and Flannery O’Connor.
Gothic Elements in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “The Lottery
Horrific, extraordinary, macabre, or supernatural events and “an atmosphere of mystery and suspense” are the essentials of the American Gothic genre of literature (Phillips). The Southern Gothic sub-genre sets the events in the American South, makes extensive use of irony, and includes eccentric, deeply flawed characters but who possess enough positive characteristics that the reader finds herself empathizing despite herself. Unlike its parent genre, Southern Gothic is not concerned merely with suspense for its own sake “but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the South” (“Southern Gothic”). The tragic short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, is typifies the Southern Gothic genre. On the other hand, Shirley Jackson’s allegorical tale “The Lottery” incorporates most of these same elements, but the events do not transpire in the South, negating its classification as Southern Gothic. Furthermore, the most common elements of American Gothic fiction: “ghostly legend[s] … omens, foreshadowing, and dreams … highly charged emotional states … damsels in distress … [and] romantic themes” (Phillips) are mostly absent in “The Lottery,” leading one to wonder if the American Gothic genre is its accurate taxonomy. This discrepancy might lead one to question the value of fitting stories into established genres: one might assume that every work in a genre will be alike and disregard or fail to perceive aspects that do not fit the mold. Nevertheless, by carefully avoiding overgeneralization and setting aside preconceptions in order to examine elements common to the genre, as well as those that do not conform, such classification can give supplemental insight into the text and often reveal deeper meaning.
“The Lottery” describes events that are well outside our everyday experience but seem ordinary enough at first. The action takes place on a pleasant June day in the town square of a small village. The townspeople gather for a lottery that has been an annual tradition for so long they have forgotten many aspects of the ceremony. The reader discovers at the conclusion of the account that the “prize” for this lottery is death by stoning, as the other villagers mercilessly stone the unfortunate winner, Tessie Hutchinson. While these events are doubtless horrific, extraordinary, and macabre, the setting does little to create suspense or mystery, though we are briefly in suspense when Mrs. Hutchinson protests the results—clearly something is not normal about this lottery. After the true nature of the lottery is revealed, it can be seen that there is some foreshadowing in the fearful behavior of the townspeople whose “jokes were quiet and … smiled rather than laughed” and who “kept their distance” from the black box (Jackson 573). Prior to the ending, we are unable to deduce the significance of this, and instead interpret these behaviors as nervous excitement. This façade keeps the reader ignorant of the genuine purpose of the ritual, and serves to better illustrate the senselessness of tradition blindly followed. Jackson says about the setting: “I hoped by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village [North Bennington, VT], to shock the story’s readers” (qtd. in “Historical,” par. 1). The sense of normalcy drives home the suggestion to the reader that this could be happening in any town, right now, and their town could be next.
In contrast, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a classic Southern Gothic story. Indeed, one critic portrays O’Connor’s writing as, “biting and grotesquely comic satire of human arrogance and self-certainty” (“O’Connor’s A Good Man,” par. 14). The story tells the heartrending tale of a family holiday to Florida that ends in disaster. The grandmother manipulates the family into taking a side trip to see an old plantation, and they wreck the car on the way, leaving them stranded on a desolate dirt road. Before long, an escaped convict, The Misfit, comes along and massacres the entire family. The events the story describes are exceptionally horrific, extraordinary, and macabre, and consistent with the genre, the author uses foreshadowing to heighten suspense, and as we are not deliberately lulled into feeling all is normal (as in “The Lottery”), it is easier to recognize. The graveyard, with “five or six graves” (there were six family members), the town of “Toombsboro,” and the way the woods “gaped like a dark open mouth,” are a few examples of how O’Connor lets us know something dreadful is about to happen (O’Connor 203; 205; 208).
The characters in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” also typify Southern Gothic style, in that they are both eccentric and deeply flawed. We first meet a character known only as “the grandmother,” and we immediately see her as a fussy, self-righteous, and quarrelsome shrew. Despite her apparent high opinion of herself, she has no difficulty telling a lie when it suits her, “‘There was a secret panel in this house,’ she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were” (O’Connor 205). The grandmother also has a tendency to disparage her family rather than show love, and seems to covet wealth as well, telling June Star, “she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden,” since he had become wealthy from Coca-Cola stock (O’Connor 204). Another character that displays eccentricity is Red Sammy, proprietor of The Tower, who keeps a “gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a small chinaberry tree” as a pet (O’Connor 204). His chauvinistic tendencies are apparent when he orders his wife around like a slave, and like the grandmother, he only sees the flaws of others, “‘A good man is hard to find,’ Red Sammy said. ‘Everything is getting terrible’” (O’Connor 205). The most peculiar character is The Misfit; even his nickname demonstrates how poorly he fits into society, and he is an excellent example of a grotesque character—certainly “cringe-inducing,” but at the same time, we see how he struggles within himself. When the grandmother pleads with him to pray, we observe his rather bizarre view of religion, “‘Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead.’ The Misfit continued, ‘and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown [sic] everything off balance’” (O’Connor 211). His concern with courtesy—even while committing multiple murders, is another of his incongruent traits, “I’m sorry I don’t have on a shirt before you ladies” (O’Connor 209).
Conversely, the characters in “The Lottery” are comparatively normal. Jackson portrays characters such as Joe Summers, the wealthy civic leader of the town who administers the lottery, and Old Man Warner, who is the staunchest advocate of the lottery and tradition, as virtually stock characters to heighten the contrast of the horrifying reality of the lottery. This disparity between the ostensibly ordinary citizens of the village and the unabashed brutality that ensues makes evident that the events could occur anywhere. Then again, one character we see that is quite consistent with the American Gothic genre is the “damsel in distress,” in Tessie Hutchinson; while not technically a damsel, she fills the role, although there is no heroic knight willing or able to rescue her, as the custom is of greater importance to the townspeople than individualism or heroism.
The characteristic of rich irony is especially present in “The Lottery.” The entire plot is ironic, with the whole story line unfolding contrary to expectations. The idyllic depiction of the scene as “clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” with “flowers … blossoming profusely” and “richly green” grass furthers this illusion that things are ordinary and tranquil (Jackson 572). When the populace begins to gather on the square, the men are “speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” and the women are gossiping, everyone displaying typical small-town behaviors that seem even more normal because of the objective and detached style of the narration (Jackson 573). In perhaps the most ghoulish irony, we see Mrs. Delacroix, after chatting amiably with Mrs. Hutchinson in the beginning, urging her to “be a good sport,” when her family wins the lottery; later, when the stoning begins, she picks up a stone so big she must use both hands, and even encourages others to “hurry up” (Jackson 576-7). Verbal irony is also used to further reinforce the absurdity of institution when Mr. Summers asks if Mrs. Dunbar has a grown boy to draw for her even though “Mr. Summers and everyone else in the village knew the answer … it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask” (Jackson 575).
Consistent with Southern Gothic tradition, irony is pervasive in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” as well. Similar to the “The Lottery,” the story begins with no hint as to the events to come, the grandmother even proclaiming it “a good day for driving” (O’Connor 203). Darker irony surfaces after the accident when June Star says with disappointment, “But nobody’s killed,” which of course is true at that moment, but soon will not be (O’Connor 207). Another example of irony is the grandmother herself, a woman that to external appearances has it all together with her “white cotton gloves … navy blue straw sailor hat … and a navy blue dress” (O’Connor 202-3). Ironically, she dresses in this fashion so that “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor 203). As discussed earlier, the grandmother has no problem with relativistic morality. She is also the proximate cause of the family’s misfortune because of her insistence on the side trip; she then seals their fate when she blurts out that she recognizes The Misfit, which is ironic in view of the fact that she had been admonishing the family about the risk of traveling with The Misfit “aloose [sic]” (O’Connor 202). This contrast between how the grandmother seems and how she actually is makes her redemption at the end of the story, when she finally shows sincere Christ-like love, all the more poignant.
In addition to the plentiful irony within both stories, the titles themselves are ironic as well. The title of “The Lottery” has a positive connotation of an opportunity to win money or prizes, but this Lottery awards only death. Upon reading the title of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” we believe that the story will be about finding a good man, or perhaps a man who becomes good in the course of the story. Ironically, it is a good woman we find, and that merely because of the influence of The Misfit, who is anything but a good man. Each story uses irony abundantly and in different ways, and each absolutely exemplifies this attribute of the American Gothic genre.
While both stories use many of the elements of the Gothic literary tradition, clearly “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” conforms much more closely to the characteristics of the American Gothic genre, and specifically, the Southern Gothic sub-genre. “The Lottery,” with its lack of a Southern setting and eccentric, flawed characters is certainly not Southern Gothic, and while it has few of the elements typically seen in American Gothic fiction, its horrific and macabre events and biting irony eliminate uncertainty as to its classification as such. In analyzing the Gothic components of the stories, it becomes clear that despite being classified in different ways, these stories have something in common; in fact, both stories are modern parables, as each contains a hidden lesson, revealed by thorough analysis. “The Lottery” forces us to question the virtue of tradition, in light of the indefensible outcome of the story. In a similar manner, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” shows us that above all it is not our outward appearance that makes us a good man or woman, but rather the love that we have for others.
“Historical Context: ‘The Lottery’.” EXPLORING Short Stories. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Pellissippi State Tech. Comm. Coll. 4 July 2009 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodId=DC&docId=EJ2112500143&source=gale&userGroupName=tel_a_pstcc&version=1.0>.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. New York: McGraw, 2007. 572-578.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. New York: McGraw, 2007. 202-212.
“O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find Is Published, 1955.” DISCovering U.S. History. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Pellissippi State Tech. Comm. Coll. 6 July 2009 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/ infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodId=DC&docId=EJ2104240958&source=gale&userGroupName=tel_a_pstcc&version=1.0>.
Phillips, Stacy. “Typical Elements of American Gothic Fiction.” Gothic Fiction and Poetry: An Online Teaching Resource. Middle TN State U. 11 July 2009 <http://frank.mtsu.edu/~saw2z/gothicfictionweb/AmericanGothic.htm>.
“Southern Gothic.” Vade Mecum: A GRE for Literature Study Tool. 7 Dec. 2008. Duke U. 4 July 2009 <http://www.duke.edu/~tmw15/southern%20gothic.html>.
An Analysis of Flannery O’Connor’s Story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find
As readers, whenever we read short stories we often consider different things that makes the story unique and insightful for us to read repeatedly. Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, is a story about a family that was travelling down from Tennessee to Florida for the summer vacation. While Bailey bringing his family to Florida for a vacation, his mother, The Grandmother, doesn’t seemed to be thrilled going to Florida. The grandmother, who was not thrilled travelling along the family, mentioned about the “The Misfit” in the newspaper being on the loose, which her family did not heed her story and ignored her completely. The grandmother faced her ultimate demise as she met The Misfit and succumbed to her death. In the story of “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, we consider separate ways that Flannery O’Connor’s writing style and techniques in the story particularly point of view, diction, tone, theme and settings that made it unique in the short story.
Whenever we read various kinds of literature particularly short stories, we often consider the different points of view that makes the story extraordinary and how the author/narrator presents the story. The way that story was written by O’Connor was specifically in the third person point of view with limited omniscient. The reason that she wrote the story specifically narrated in the third person point of view with limited omniscient is because the story is centred singularly with the Grandmother. The narrator chose the perspective of the grandmother is because she has some knowledge, which is ready, accessible to begin access it directly. For example, the Grandmother begins to question her son, Bailey, that, “what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?” (O’ Connor 2), by asking this question to Bailey, it would suggest us that the Grandmother might have some knowledge about this fugitive. However, due to the limited knowledge about the Misfit as much as the Grandmother would know it from the outside. We might suggest that narrator is foreshadowing that will eventually faced the “unknown” person called, The Misfit. Moreover, O’Connor also wrote the story in a third person point of view with limited perspective for the Misfit being that as a part of the main character in that story, he does gives some thoughts about his actions, intentions and past that made him that way. He said to the Grandmother that, “Then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody…. or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness” (27). The Misfit indicates his intentions to kill the Grandmother; however, his intention to kill her wasn’t really known although given his motivation to hurt or even kill someone but he shows his own moral fabric that his thoughts are clouded and his desire to hurt or kill someone becomes the ulterior motive and displays his volition to kill her the Grandmother anyways. Thus, it shows that we can trust the narrator in this story albeit that the author put the limited omniscient point of view those two-main character, the Grandmother and the Misfit. As the point of view is exhibited in the story with great deal of perspective, diction is a factor of how the point of view is carried in the dialogue of the story.
Aside from the point of view perspective of the story, the diction of the words that character delivered the dialogue in the story especially with The Grandmother. O’ Connor’s delivery of the dialogue from the Grandmother was deliberate and simple to the point because she wants us readers to have more focus on the dialogue of the main and supporting characters, instead of the details of the characters. Another feature that is very distinct in the writing style of Flannery O’Connor is that the way she writes her sentences in the story is rather short, plain and simple, because it was done deliberately on purpose to make it simple. For example, in the middle part of the story, O’Connor wrote the description of the grandmother action as, “The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in the front of the back window” (4). O’Connor’s writing style is very consistent and effective in the story because she wants the narrator of the story to deliver the story in a clean, evident and descriptive way which it compliments her writing of the short story. In addition, besides the diction of the language that was delivered in the story, the tone of the diction that is delivered in the dialogue of the story is very different and extraordinary in most short stories. Also, throughout the story itself, the Grandmother choice of words are rather uncanny but inflammatory at the same time; although, the Grandmother’s choice of words is rather inflammatory, but we must remember that O’Connor wrote it that kind of diction since it was the commonality of talking to the minorities, especially towards the African-Americans, back in the South during the 1930s and 1940s which racism was an open season. For example, the Grandmother says that, “’Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!’ she said and pointed to a Negro out of the back window” (5), the word “pickaninny” is an offensive term for a young black child and as I said, O’Connor uses this word “pickaninny” carefully and deliberately since this was the jargon and lingo that would describe for the Grandmother towards this young coloured child. O’Connor’s choice of words and diction are very colourful and unique due to her roots that come from South which the jargon of words is quite different than most of the American writers. As diction defines the tone of the language and the point of view of the story that the author exhibits in the story. The setting adds to the
The setting of the short is set in the South primarily in the states of Florida and Georgia. The reason the setting was set in the South was the background of Flannery O’Connor as an author and the historical situation that was place in that time. O’Connor makes some references of the different landmarks such as the Stone Mountains in Georgia. Also, in the story John Wesley made a deprecating reference of both states as, “Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground, and Georgia is a lousy state too” (5), this would suggest that there is some ill will towards these two states that John Wesley would make this deprecating joke since he despises both Tennessee and Georgia. Another example of the setting that O’Connor displays in the story is in the plantation. The reason why she put the Plantation in the story is because of two things, one in a historical sense the plantation have a huge lot of land and they have the graveyard along grounds of the plantation and two, the plantation is used in the story as a foreshadowing of the Grandmother which it gives us the hint the Grandmother would succumbed her demise at the grounds of the plantation at the hands of the Misfit. O’Connor’s choice of setting was so instrumental and critical in a sense achieved the objective of writing the story because it describes about the nature of the setting that was set and portrayed in that specific region of the South. Also, the choice of setting in the South was specifically done in way that we as readers must understand that the story was set in the 1950s.
Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, has exceed on various levels of analysing the story from the development of the character, diction and tone of the language that is presented in the short story and also choice of settings that gives us readers the imagination of what to expect in the story. As readers, we learn different perspectives about this story and how it affects our thoughts and understanding that surrounds us. Like the story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, we must not befall to the pit of prejudices which succumbs us to our own dereliction and eventually fall to our own demise just like the Grandmother ruined her life in expense of prejudice and ignorance towards because of being uptight towards herself.