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In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, family plays a crucial role. Family relationships are important in both short stories to establish the credibility of each member in the family. In each story, each member has a specific role within their family and when the roles are defied or attempt to be manipulated, in both stories, someone is punished. Similarly, the authors present the idea that when divided families will fall.
Within these stories, a family bond is significant; nevertheless, each author displays this significance in a unique way, different than the other.
The relationship within the families is significant to the later events in the story. Each member of a family has their role within their family to establish the family. O’Connor’s uses a tradition American family consisting of a mother, father, daughter, son, infant, and grandmother. He plainly outlines each member of the family, giving them their stereotypical role.
The father is in charge and makes the rules, while the mother cares over the children: “Lady,’ the man said to the children’s mother, ‘would you mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where you’re at.””(O’Connor 109). The children’s role is to agonize and be dependent on the adults, while the grandmother demonstrates an elderly role, attempting to guide and instruct the children: “In my time,’ said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, ‘children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else”” (O’Connor 185).
By constructing this type of family, O’Connor allows the majority of past, modern, and future readers to be able to connect with any member within this family. These roles of this family also establish a reliable narrator because he plainly portrays the expected role of each member. Similarly, Jackson uses family relationships that can not only be related to but also believed. Jackson establishes the importance and existence of family bonds with the presence of the lottery. Families stand together throughout the lottery, forming its basic structure: “there was a great deal of fussing to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open. There were the lists to make up- of heads of families, heads of households in each family, members of each household in each family” (Jackson 134). Without a family, one cannot partake in the lottery. Jackson, too, uses the tradition family consisting of a father, mother, and three children. The father is head of household, while the mother tends to housekeeping obligations and the children: “Thought my old man was out back stacking wood.’ Mrs. Hutchinson went on. and then in looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came-a running.’ She dried her hands on her apron…” (Jackson 135).
Mrs. Hutchinson embodies the typical, calm housewife married to the typical masculine provider. The children took on their expected roles of innocence and dependence as the boys gathered rocks for the event and the young “girls stood aside, talking amounst themselves, looking over their shoulders at the boys, and the very small children rolled in the dust or clung to the hands of their older brothers or sisters” (Jackson 133). Although each author portrays the typical expectation of each family member within the family, each family member’s personality and actions differ between the stories, regardless of their role. Although Jackson allows his mother character to become more involved within his story due to later events of the story, he also portrays her as insignificant and disposable; while O’Connor’s motherly character has few lines, also showing little importance to the story.
In each story, the protagonist attempts to selfishly defy the roles established within their family. In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, the grandmother, in an attempt to keep her life, wants to create a connection with the Misfit. She does this by telling him he is her child: “She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if her were going to cry and she murmured, ‘Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!”” (O’Connor 193). By saying this to him, she defies her son’s role in their family because he is to be believed to be her only son. The grandmother also defies her role when she murmurs this to him because she attempts to make the Misfit feel united within the same family he just help murder. Although her previous attempts to establish sympathy among the Misfit using biblical references fails, her statement defying the roles in her family results in her ultimate death.
In “The Lottery”, after Mrs. Hutchinson’s husband unluckily chooses the black dot, which creates the possibility of her losing her life, she becomes defensive, attempting to give herself a greater advantage and better chance at not being sacrificed by trying to bend the rules. Although her eldest daughters are already married and now considered a part of a different family, she defies her family relationship by attempting to get them added in the lottery among her family: You got any other households in the Hutchinson?’ “There’s Don and Eva.’ Mrs. Hutchinson yelled, “Make them take their chance! ‘Daughters draw with their husbands’ families, Tessie,’ Mr. Summers said gently. You know that as well as anyone else’ (Jackson 137).
These elder daughters aren’t mentioned throughout the whole story until they were of use to Mrs. Hutchinson. She also defies her role in her family because a mother is supposed to care after her children, regardless of their age, and she attempts to sacrifice them to avoid her own persecution. Ironically, she later picks the unlucky paper despite her many different maneuvers to selfishly save her life. Although both women defy not only their role within their family but also their entire expected family relationship, the author displays their deception and persecution in different ways. Although the grandmother shows no apparent concern for the death of her entire family, she does not attempt to sacrifice the rest of her family members in hopes for an extended life as Mrs. Hutchinson does. The two women’s method of murder also differs, while the grandmother is shot and Mrs. Hutchinson is stoned.
Each author portrays the idea of strength within a family. The central idea that together they stand, but divided they will fall is displayed in the two short stories. O’Connor portrays this idea when the family is separated and killed in shifts. First, the father and son are taken away and shot: “There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by another. Then silence” (O’Connor 191). The males are killed first because they signify the strength within the family and pose a threat to the criminals. Then the mother, daughter, and baby are later taken and each shot. Although the females do not pose any clear danger to the criminals, the females are too killed with the understanding that their family has already been destroyed by the death of the father and son: “The children’s mother had begun to make heaving noises as if she couldn’t get her breathe ‘Lady,’ he asked, ‘would you and that little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?”” (O’Connor 192).
The grandmother is later shot. Throughout the story, the family travels and performs together. Each member is viewed and portrayed as a strong representation of their role in their family. This separation literally divides them as a family, resulting in their death, one by one. Jackson, also, allows the division of the family to result in death. However, Jackson psychologically divides his family, rather than physically. Each family is required to stand together in groups during the whole event of the lottery. Also, each member of each family is required to be present during the lottery. Nevertheless as soon as Mrs. Hutchinson draws the unlucky paper, she no longer stands among her family: “Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her” (Jackson 138). As she stands alone, divided from her family, in the story, Mrs. Hutchinson is at her weakest and most vulnerable point. Her children and husband turn on her, assisting in her death: “the children had stones already. And someone gave little Dave Hutchinson a few pebbles” (Jackson 138).
The lottery and its ill-fated results divide this family, resulting in the death of their mother, wife, and homemaker. Family is a significant part in “The Lottery” by Jackson and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by O’Connor. They use the tradition family unit to establish each characters role within their family. They also display the negative consequences caused by the disregard of these roles as well as the negative consequences created when a family is divided. Although these systematic ideas are similarly presented by the two different authors, each story is written differently to portray the uniqueness of the two separate families.
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