Use of Symbolism in Flannery O’Connor’s Novel A Good Man Is Hard to Find

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

The values and morals that a person possesses makes up their character. Ones principles are a simple set of beliefs that may be perceived in society as right. In ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’, Flannery O’ Connor uses symbolism to give further meaning to her brief story. Based around a southern family taking a vacation towards Florida. O’Connor composes a story of a Grandmother against a convict who has escaped from jail who is referred to as Misfit. The writing of the whole story gives a theme of good versus bad. Flannery O’Connor’s depiction of Christian faith can be seen in this writing of hers. Ending with a shocking conclusion, this leaves the reader with liberty to understand the fundamental idea. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is largely influenced by grace, hypocrisy, bitter reality, and a combination of white supremacy. O’Connor dives into the complexity of human instincts.

The unnamed grandmother is a perfect example of how contradictory a person’s beliefs and standards can be. She is indirectly manipulative, yet she holds herself to a sophisticated, purer standard than the other characters. Not to mention, the grandmother is not as she first appears, and she is stuck on the interpretations of the past and how they apply to her as a woman. If someone was to go down the wrong path there is still a chance to redeem oneself. Illustrating an equivalence between the Misfit and the grandmother, showing good and evil are not mutually limited to an individual. Distinguished by its religious aspects, in particular O’Connor’s fondness for portraying salvation through a shocking, violent experience undergone by characters who are spiritually or physically grotesque.

Commentators have praised ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ for O’Connor’s effective use of local color and the rich witty detail of her Southern background, as well as her ability to record with a keen ear the idiosyncratic dialect of characters such as the grandmother and The Misfit. The heroine of this story, the Grandmother, is in the most significant position life offers the Christian. While she is facing death, she tries to speak god into the Misfit’s head. To all appearances she, like the rest of us, is not too well prepared for it. She would like to see the event put off indefinitely.

A solid forewarning imagery can be read into these lines. Knowing the definite ending of the story. In the beginning of the short story O’Connor elaborates the symbolization of the dress the grandmother wears as a preparation for her death later down in the plot of the story. When a person dies, they usually are dressed in their best outfit, just like the grandmother was dressed in what seemed to be her Sunday best. Being the reason of the detailed idea of the grandmother’s spick-and-span dress, ‘in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady'(471). She herself predicts her own death. The Misfit seems like an unlikely person to have morals, but he has a profound thought process that other characters seem to lack. The Misfit may be a degenerate with corrupt morals; he is consistent and sticks by them. The Misfit is very conscious of himself, telling the Grandmother “I’m not a good man, but I’m not the worst either” (478).

With this consistency and self-awareness, the Misfit can rely on his moral code, however twisted, to guide himself in his life. This is really shown in the end of the story when Bobby Lee suggest that is must have been fun to shoot the Grandmother, in which the Misfit replies “it’s no real pleasure in life to kill anyone” (481). From O’Connor’s conclusion of the story, salvation applies to all individuals. However, tests, misfortunes, and discrepancies accompany an individual. According to critics, O’Connor connects two worlds when she gives immoral people perpetuity; Violating Christianity educations, which claims eternity to righteousness.

Despite the grandmother presenting herself as moral with admirable judgment skills, she realizes her life is not different from Misfit who was a prisoner and murderer. Therefore, through expounding enhancement and a ‘good man’. O’Connor calls for human equality in the world. O’Connor uses the fictionalized tragic journey of a family to portray real life events that occur in today’s world. People do wrong in life sometimes but may come across someone who see’s good in them. This whole story is bombarded with symbolism. One thing after another represents major problems in our day and age.


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