The choices that we make determine who we truly are. The immense pressure of certain situations in which we are faced will ultimately differentiate the type person that we think we are, from the kind of person that we actually are. In the short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find “Author Flannery O’Connor tells a story about a family that includes a Grandmother and her superficial beliefs. The family ultimately crosses paths with “The Misfit” that is on the loose, who represents the total opposite of what the grandmother is perceived to be.
O’Conner uses the characterization of both the Misfit and the grandmother throughout the plot in order to reveal the theme of this piece which is achieved when the grandmother is finally brought to grace. In the start of the piece O’Conner brings the reader into a conversation that is taking place between the grandmother and her only son Bailey. The family is planning a trip to Florida in which the Grandmother is strongly opposed. She attempts to find every reason that she can possibly come up with to convince her son to change the destination of the trip from Florida to Tennessee.
Throughout the story the grandmother gives the impression that she is a figure of grace, dignity and prestige. Although she did not want to attend the trip she is the first person in the car the next morning, ready to go. She is dressed very carefully because she sees herself as lady who is very polite and astute and she must be seen by others in the same manner. She also takes advantage of every opportunity to correct her grandchildren when making remarks that are less than courteous.
When the children see the black child sitting on the porch they begin to giggle, she quickly reminds them that “black children in the country don’t have the things we do”. She tries to teach the children to respect the land in their native state of Georgia when the children try to throw trash out the window of the car and June Star makes the comment that Tennessee is “a hillbilly dumping ground and Georgia is a lousy state too. ”The grandmother again hisses at June Star when she makes the impolite statement that “I wouldn’t live in a broken down place like this for a million bucks”.
One of the ways that O’Conner characterized the grandmother is being manipulative. Knowing what to do and say in order for her to achieve whatever it was that she wanted. An example of this being true is by her sneaking the cat into the car against her son’s wishes. Another is after the family had left The Tower and she manipulated the children into believing that the house she wanted to visit had a secret a panel. After getting the children riled up about the secret panel they nagged until Bailey finally had no choice to but to turn around and go down the deserted dirt road.
After traveling down this dirt road a while the grandmother realizes that the house that she remembered was in Tennessee. As she comes to this realization the cat springs out and frightens Bailey and he drives the car over the embankment. The grandmother hopes that she is injured so that her son will have sympathy for her and she would not have to reveal her mistaking the location of the house. O’Conner has used the characterization of the grandmother and her family as well as the plot to this point in order to give an account of what type of person the grandmother is based off her actions.
A man with two others arrived in a car and they got out and to help the family. The grandmother reveals that the man is “The Misfit” that she had seen in the newspaper. It seems as if the misfit’s attention had suddenly reverted from assisting the family to now killing the family based on her recognition of him. The Misfit has Hiram and Bobby Lee to take Bailey and John Wesley out to the woods first because they could be the most troublesome of the bunch. Shortly after, they take the mother and her baby into the woods and June star takes Bobby Lee’s hand and follows.
As stated in Flannery O’Connor’s “Spoiled Prophet” written by T. W. Hendricks, “the family members enter the fatal woods without resisting”. This is said to be because they are accustomed to doing what is expected of them. They are not capable of acting on their own interest because none of them truly know who they are. The only exception to this being the grandmother who is considered to be a round character whose personality has been fully developed throughout the story. While Bobby Lee and Hiram are in the process of murdering the rest of her family she is pleading with the Misfit to spare her life.
He rejects all of her attempts to talk him out of his murderous intentions. The story then goes on to the duel, what O’Conner considers to be the theme of the story. This conflict is between the grandmother’s belief that she is morally superior to everyone, and the misfits close examination of his life as well as his self awareness that he is not a good man. This critical part of the story takes place during the dialogue that ensues between the misfit and the grandmother. The grandmother insists that the misfit is too good a man to shoot a lady.
With this attempt to save her own life she is appealing the decency of the man. The grandmother tells his that “I know you must come from nice people. ” He says that he does come from the finest people in the world, but the he is not a good man. The grandmother begins to lose her voice as she realizes that her son and grandson were killed and that her daughter in law as well the rest of her grandchildren were about to be killed, and that she would soon follow. The misfit goes on to explain to the grandmother that Jesus has thrown everything off balance.
He compared himself to Jesus in the sense that he had been punished but hadn’t committed any crimes. The Fact that Jesus was also able to know what he was being punished for ate at him because he had no idea what he was being punished for. He had come to the conclusion that the punishments that he had gone through did not fit the crime that he was accused of. The grandmother repeatedly urged the Misfit to pray. Praying would not help the misfit because he doesn’t see what he has done as being a sin. The misfit believes that there is no hope for a good life in this world or any hope for bliss in the next life.
He says that “it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. ” This is considered to be the Misfit’s motivation for him committing these murders. The grandmother see’s something in the Misfit that makes him like one of her own children, one of her sheep that have only strayed off course. The grandmother reaches out to touch the misfit both spiritually and physically but instead of breaking down, the misfit jumps back and fire 3 shots into her chest.
O’Conner intended for the grandmothers last moments to be led by grace. In the end she was personally connected with the misfit and genuinely concerned about him as a person. It is this connection to being compared to a child that the misfit takes issue with. He mistakes her gesture for a form of belittlement. In the short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” the characters, characterization of the characters, the occurrences throughout the plot as well as the conflict are all literary elements critical to reaching the final “coming to grace” theme of the story.
Courtney from Study Moose
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