A Good Man Is Hard to Find
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Flannery OConnors short story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find has many elements of a southern gothic work. Images of ancient castles with sliding panels create suspicious themes and settings that lead the readers into the dark and gloomy world of the southern United States. With all of the violence, horror, and dismal surroundings presented in OConnors stories there is too a moral message given. Later gothic work did not always explain horror like this, holding little moral value to contrast their grotesque images (notes, November 1). OConnors stories do include a strong moral element, frequently in the form of religious explanations. The characters within A Good Man is Hard to Find are usually ignorant and self-satisfying people, who come across “the grotesque” and are shocked into self-realization, no longer self-satisfied. These grotesque elements are usually the divine in disguise forcing the characters into introspection. In a letter Flannery OConnor wrote she stated: “You have found Christ when you are concerned with other peoples suffering and not your own.” In this quotation we can see the moral message OConnor was attempting to convey in her stories, and through further analysis of the work this fact can be more clearly illustrated.
In the first story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, OConnors moral message is clearly presented. The grandmother protagonist in the story is very self-serving. She demands constant attention (although rarely getting it) and stubborn in the fact that her wishes must be carried out. She only wants to go to Tennessee to see old connections (OConnor, pg. 1). The grandmother cannot move away from past and is at the same time confused by accuracy of past events.
On the trip a road stop seems very suggestive of a hellish place: barbecue fires, Red Sammy, etc (OConnor, pg. 6). The grandmothers lack of character judging is pointed out in this scene. She believes that Red Sammy is a good man because he relates to her old fashioned values (she thinks). Sammy is surprised at this and exclaims, “Yesm, I suppose so,” his unsureness makes the reader question Sammys character. What is more telling is what the waitress says while bringing the food: “It isn a soul in this green world of Gods that you can trust I don count nobody out on that, not nobody (OConnor, pg. 8).” While speaking this last line the waitress looks directly at Sammy, making him angry/uncomfortable. If Sammy is not a good man is he evil? Could he represent Satan, Red Sammy is a fitting parallel name. Sammy then states that “a good man is hard to find.” Could this be forewarning to the grandmothers confused values of what is right or wrong (good or bad)?
Soon the family is on their way again but the grandmother forces her way by using the children. Getting the kids exited enough to annoy their father so much that he breaks down and changes the route and seeks out the old gothic house. We soon learn that the grandmother has made a geographical mistake thinking Georgia for Tennessee. Her ignorance starts a chain of events which will result in all their deaths: Brining the cat along even though she knew it wold not be allowed, forcing her will even when unsure if it was right (OConnor, 2, 11). The grandmothers uncertainty of geography could be read as mirroring her spiritual uncertainty.
After the car crashes we see that the grandmother is self-serving. She uses gender roles (“you wouldn shoot a woman”) and religious images to try and save herself and to make the Misfit to look well upon her (OConnor, 14-19). This plea seems very self-serving. Why not ask- “you wouldn shoot a family, would you?” The argument of religion as a reason to be good is rejected by the Misfit (OConnor, 21). By dismissing Christs history the Misfit also rejects the grandmothers self-serving values. When death is imminent the grandmother has a revelation and is prepared to embrace the Misfit and possibly true spirituality (not the self-serving kind). Grandmother now looks on the Misfit without class or social order, but in her sole belief of the goodness in all men. Although, this could all be a ploy to save herself? After rejecting the grandmothers embrace and shooting her we see that the Misfit has taught her real goodness. The grandmother learns a moral lesson from the Misfit, who has rejected her morals. This quotation shows the grandmothers appearance after her death: “the grandmother who half sat in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a childs and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky (OConnor, 22).”
This transformation into an innocent childlike state illustrates how the Misfit has given her a fresh start or a rebirth, as Jesus did. Is the misfit representative of Jesus? The grandmother seems to think so. If we look at the dialogue more closely we can see that the grandmother refers to the Misfit as Jesus many times unintentionally (OConnor, 20 21). “Jesus…youve got good blood, Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady”. Other examples of the Misfit as a god are in his power to dictate whom lives or dies. He is the leader of the gang and what he says goes (in control verses grandmother, who has lost what little control she had). Taking no pleasure in killing is yet another godly trait. We can see in this quotation that the Misfit takes no pleasure in his “duties.” “Its no real pleasure in life (OConnor, pg. 22).” If the Misfit really is indeed a representation of Christ than we can see that he has made the grandmother realize her perceptions of goodness and her self-centered behavior was wrong. By returning her to the state of a child the Misfit has given her a sort of rebirth and a new fresh outlook on life. In death the grandmother has learned these things and has achieved salvation through the barrel of the Misfits gun.
OConnors The Artificial Nigger is yet another story in which the main characters are changed by an experience that alters their self -perception. This change comes as a result from a religious experience that shocks them into caring more for each other than themselves. In the story we witness two men, one very young and one old, journeying from their small backwards community into the city where their values and concerns are turned upside down. Mr. Head believes that he has power and influence over those around him. We can see this by the way he puts Nelson and the dinner car waiter down to make himself feel superior. Nelson doesn