A Good Man is Hard to Find dramatizes what happens when an escaped convict, and his companions murder an entire family as a result of a thousand mistakes of an antiquated and prejudicial Grandmother. The author establishes the Grandmother as a nervous and confused character who often wonders why tradition and the old way of life could not have been preserved. Extremely selfish and vain, the Grandmother also demonstrates obvious class and racial prejudice both through her actions and words, yet an entire lifetime of prejudicial perceptions and attitudes is erased by the end of the narrative when she comes to the realization that she is, indeed, helpless in the face of violence.
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Moreover, the discriminatory views that she has towards inferiorities directly relate to the shocking behavior of the Misfit. What is so fascinating about this short story is that OFlannery wrote during a time in which the violence and general nastiness of her characters were often not admired coming from a ?lady writer (Flaig). The theme of violence serves the purpose of violence is to, finally, make the Grandmother see just how hateful her bias towards others really is, as it is only when her entire family is murdered that she can create any meaningful connection with another person and accept the grace of God. As such, it is through violence that the Grandmother ironically experiences a rebirth as she realizes that it is the very bigotry she conveyed throughout her life that incites the Misfits to murder her family. The violence is, thus, used to critique society and is base for the redemption that the Grandmother experiences by the end of the short story, as it hints how Christianity profoundly influenced OConnorr’s writings.
The short storyr’s false and extremely unrealistic plot figure in the authorr’s ability to mock society and develop the themes of redemption and forgiveness achieved through the encounter of violence. A family comprised of a husband and a wife, their two children, and a grandmother, who also sneaks her cat into a basket, all embark on a road trip to Florida even though the grandmother makes loud efforts to change the road trip to Tennessee rather than to Florida. She also tells her family about the Misfit, a serial killer who she claims is on the loose in Georgia, which means that they will be traveling right into his path of violence. Upon stopping at a barbecue joint that Red Sammy owns, Red Sammy discusses how two men had previously stolen some gas from him for their Chrysler, asserting that a good man is hard to find (OConnor).
The Grandmother feels jubilant and takes pleasure in another person feeling mournful about the present, and expanding nostalgia about the past. While the family continues their road trip, the Grandmother convinces both the son and the father to go down a side of the road since she is convinced that there is an old plantation there that possibly has a treasure, an idea that the kids are attracted by. After unsuccessfully searching for the plantation, the grandmother suddenly remembers that the plantation she is thinking about is not even in Georgia but rather is located in Tennessee, which causes her to startle the cat in the basket, which in turn causes a car wreck. After the family climbs out of the car, injured, dazed, and confused, only to see another car carrying the Misfit and his cronies; although everything is initially okay, the criminals ultimately murder the family after the grandmother claims that she recognizes them. Ultimately, everyone but the cat is murdered by Misfit and his partners. The entire plot presents a sarcastic view into American society during the period of time in which the short story was written, and it was through the grandmotherr’s discussion with the Misfit about her life that she actually evolves as a person and moves towards redemption.
The Grandmother character undergoes a profound character transformation in the face of violence, which is why her character deserves a closer examination to better understand how violence brought about her rebirth after a lifetime of prejudice and strict devotion to an old way of life. She constantly expresses her frustrations with the world in which she lives, and her words, combined with her inability to articulate her perceptions and feelings, portray her quite despisable to the reader. As Claire Katz states, words themselves, when they are tools of intellect and not magical incantations, are presented as worse than meaningless, a preparation for actions never taken, a symbol of naivete if not cowardice (Katz 66). Indeed, the grandmother demonstrates this attribute, as she provides a never-ending commentary of the weather and the scenery as the family drives to Florida. None of her other family members care about the information that she gives, as the two children are preoccupied with their comics while the wife dozes off (OConnor 650). More significantly, the Grandmother attributes morality in what people from her generation would do, thereby believing her nostalgic opinions are more important and supreme over those of her family (650). The entire story presented demonstrates the Grandmotherr’s racism and classism that indirectly frames her as a whiner who deserves no pity or mercy. Yet, in the face of violence, the Grandmother undergoes a profound transformation that conveys a message about the power of forgiveness and salvation in the face of violence.
Critics have described A Good Man is Hard to Find as a sarcastic and brutal representation of the murder of an entire family that embodies the Christian realism that influenced many writings of Southern authors. In her book entitled Writing Against God: Language as Message in the Literature of Flannery OConnor, Joanne Halleran McMullen asserted that the main characters in the short story”the grandmother and the serial killer”are unnamed and are referred to by what they are rather than who. McMullen writes: [The Misfit] has no Christian name; it is his depravity that has become specifically ?incarnate in OConnorr’s world (McMullen 20). It is only at the end when the Christian belief of grace manifests in the final scenes of the short story that the Grandmother attempts to touch the Misfit, but he flinches in the same way a person would if they were bitten by a snake. McMullen points out that this action alludes to a biblical symbol that is contradictory to grace. OConnor herself described the Misfit in a lecture that she delivered as being a prophet gone wrong who would have transformed into an actual prophet had he accepted the touch of the grandmother. However, it is hard to catch sight of this in the story the way it is written, since there is very little context for such interpretation.
Nonetheless, as McMullen notes, the characters in this short story appear only as humans who have personalities that deserve the readerr’s or even the authorr’s consideration, sympathy, or even dislike. Carol Kaplan states that at the moment of death [the grandmother] truly embraces the Christian mystery in her triumph. Although, in Christian terms, such a moment is always a gift, it is one for which the recipient has prepared throughout her life (Kaplan). In the face of violence, it is the maternal compassion that the Grandmother possesses that ultimately leads to her moment of revelation in which she realizes that she is part of the reason the Misfit has turned into a murderous psychopath (Kaplan). The mixture of Christian symbols and themes further contribute to the idea that violence”like the ever-present violence in the Old and New Testaments before humanity became redeemed, and Christ was redeemed”marks a rebirth. It took the Grandmother being directly confronted by violence and the thought of her death before her stubborn ways changed, and she found grace.
The violent nature of Flannery OConnorr’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, is enhanced as a serial killer, nicknamed the Misfit, who lacks any emotion, murders an entire family. Despite the bizarre and seemingly unrealistic plot, it becomes clear that the author uses violence, gore, and shock to critique society through her examination of the theme of redemption by exposing the readerr’s own bias to and cravings for violence. While it may seem contradictory to include so much violence in a story about redemption and salvation, the Christian religion itself helps makes sense of OConnorr’s approach to the short story, as violence forms the foundation of Christianity as perceived in the crucifixion of Christ. With violence and sacrifice comes redemption even though the Grandmother is ultimately murdered as well.
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