Psychoanalytical Analysis of a Book “A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor Essay
The stories under analysis – A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Revelation – focus on the psychological and moral analysis of the main actors with regard to their perception and attitude to the external social environment.
Specifically, in the story A Good Man is Hard to Find, one of the main characters the grandmother, who does not have a name, is represented as a good Christian; she believes that her moral principles dominate over others, but in fact she is a selfish person whose hypocrisy does not allow her to adequately asses her personality.
Similarly, the main heroes of Revelation also discuss the importance of being a highly moral personality and appreciating the values and virtues accepted in society. Specifically, Mrs. Turpin considers herself as a morally superior and well-educated woman who the right to judge other people. Additionally, other heroes of the short stories serve as antagonists who confront the moral stances that have been firmly established by protagonist.
O’Connor’s short stories partially reflect autobiographic information. Specifically, in A Good Man is Hard to Find, the protagonist is a woman who lacks attention on the part of her family and who is overwhelmed with her past. Being arrogant and cynical, she fails to adequately assess her family members, who she believes have low morale.
By recollecting her young years, the grandmother confesses, “in my time…children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then” (A Good Man is Hard to Find 34). The moral superiority of the heroine is also recognized by Bonney who believes, “self-righteously superior, she therefore can justify all of her own behavior, whether it involves bribing her granddaughter” (347-348). Her egoistic nature is also represented in her attempt to please the Misfit and avoid punishment.
Similar to the grandmother, Mrs. Turpin is also obsessed with her moral principles and, therefore, she strongly beliefs in her right to evaluate the morality of actions of other people. When the woman arrives at the hospital, she enters the waiting room that is full of people.
Mrs. Turpin starts a conversation with “a pleasant lady” to express her attitude to the surrounding people, by making different remarks. The heroine also gives different labels to people, which are the only names for those characters. In such a way, Mrs. Turpin will “occupy herself with the question of who she would have chosen to be if she could be herself” (Revelation 195). The woman tries to grasp any opportunity to praise her own nobleness and grateful nature.
Because Mr. Turnip wants to be good to other people, she is confident that her moral principles are superior. The woman also claims that her superior position is due to the fact that she and her husband Claud own a land. When she is insulted by Mary Grace, the embodiment of religious heroine Mary, she believes that this is a God’s sign that makes her re-evaluate her destination.
The Misfit is among the most difficult and mysterious characters in the book who psychological portrait is ambiguous. In the story, the hero explains, “I call myself the Misfit […] because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment” (A Good Man is Hard to Find 142). While pursuing the Misfit’s responses, it is difficult to define whether his explanations could be trusted or not. One the hand, he claims that he loved his parents; on the other hand, the Misfit is in jail because he killed his father.
To explain the ambivalence of the Misfit’s psychological and moral stage, Whitlock asserts, “…while redemption is made possible by divine action, it requires the essence of humanity. Without The Misfit, there could be no redemption” (9-10). Hence, this character serves as the indicator of the character’s genuine intentions and fears. The grandmother now realizes that she could die and, therefore, she starts flattering The Misfit to avoid punishment.
The “Misfit” of Revelation is Mary Grace who also serves as the measure of human generosity and morale. In fact, the confrontation of the good and the evil forces converge to ensure the message of grace. Although labeled as an ugly good with bad disposition, Mary Grace is outraged and expresses her indignation over Mrs. Turpin by throwing a book entitled Human Development at the woman’s left eye.
In this respect, Mary Grace is “a literary representation and a psychic projection of the shadow, the repressed, inferior aspects of the personality which comprise the personal unconscious” (Rowley n. p.).
The girl reflects the degree of Mr. Turpin’s inappropriate behavior and her extreme resentment of other people in the waiting room. From a psychological point of view, there is a distinction between the personal shadow, referring to the personal unconscious, and archetypal shadows, representing the evil force. Both types of shadows are usually confronted through protection.
At this point, when Mrs. Turpin unconsciously recognizes the shadow in the girl, she projects it within her own unconsciousness, although she is completely unaware of this projection. Mary Graces’ spiteful stares and apocalyptic declarations could definitely induce a projection in a “pleasantly disposed” woman such as Ruby Turpin.
By separating herself from the surrounding world, Mr. Turpin fails to understand that the moral superiority over people is not the way to salvation and self-determination. At the same time, she tries to self-express through the surrounding people, by demonstrating that she deserves to gain God’s forgiveness.
To explain, Mrs. Turpin’s intentions, Rowley provides an explanation for the woman’s individual nature, being “a complicated system between the individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kid of mast, designed on the one hand to make a definition impression upon others, and on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual” (n. p.) Therefore, Ruby
Turpin considers herself as a kind-hearted, noble, and honest person and, therefore, she is convinced that she is blessed by God. For the woman and people calling her a genuinely good persona, serious psychic repercussions might occur. As a result of this prognosis, when Mrs. Turpin defines herself as very good person, she confronts immediately with the unconscious.
The evident connection between the conscious, representing Mrs. Turpin and the unconscious performed by Mary Grace define the full psychological portrait of the main heroine who fails to acknowledge that all people are equal in front of God and, she does not have the right to label anyone. Therefore, all her attempts to prove her moral and religious superiority fail at the end of the story. Similar to Mrs. Turpin, the grandmother’s effort to persuade The Misfit of her high morality turns out be a failure as well.
In fact, flattering and explicit demonstration of her high respect of other people does not help to conceal her selfish and arrogant nature. Although she considers herself “a lady” and “good Christian”, she strives to look like a good person rather than be a good person. In both stories, O’Connor proves that revelation and salvation is possible through recognition of the fact that people do not have privileges that are identified by their status, age, or property.
In the stories, the act of denial and redemption does not have an actual force because both the grandmother and Mrs. Turpin realize that the Doom’s day will come and that their moral superiority will not help them to survive. From a psychological perspective, the antagonistic heroes play the role of the unconscious voice that overtly warns them about their inappropriate behavior, which can lead to serious consequences.
In conclusion, although the grandmother and Mrs. Turpin are confident that God praise their high morality and obedience, they rate themselves superior to other characters. Specifically, the grandmother believes that her relative do not appreciate her as a personality and, nevertheless, she considers her a good person and a lady who deserves greater attention. Similar to the grandmother, Mrs. Turpin is confident that she has the right to label people and divide them into classes.
She believes that her privileged status, as well as the fact that she owns a land, could save her from God’s judgment. However, their antagonistic heroes – the Misfit and Mary Grace – become the measurements of their inappropriate and arrogant attitude toward other people, leading to serious consequences. They also take the role of the voice of the unconscious that refers to the disguised portrayal of the protagonists.
Bonney, William. “The Moral Structure Of Flannery O’connor’s A Good Man Is ..” Studies In Short Fiction 27.3 (1990): 347. Print.
O’Connor, Flannery “Revelation”, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Ed. Robert Fitzgerald. US: Farrar, Straus, and Girough, 1965. 191-217. Print.
Rowley, Rebecca. “Individuation and Religious Experience: A Jungian Approach to O’Connor’s “Revelation”” The Southern Literary Journal. 25.2 (1995).1 Print.
Whitlock, Reta Ugena. “Queering “The Misfit”: Locating a Curriculum of Place Within Flannery O’Conor’s Fundamentalist Narrator”. Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies. 4 (2008): 2-16. Print.
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