Gullibility Vs. Hypocrisy Essay, Research Paper
In Flannery O’Connors’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “Good Country People,” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” she explores the consequences of the combination of hypocrisy, gullibility in social contacts, and the role of being raised at mother’s knee. Reared a strict Roman Catholic and writing in the Bible Belt South O’Connor encountered those character flaws first hand.
The repetitive hypocrisy displayed in these three short stories is portrayed by only the men suggesting that O’Connor has certain issues with men. Tom Shiftlet in “The Life You Save May be Your Own,” wearing his black town suit and brown hat met these two women, Lucynell Crater Sr. and her daughter Lucynell Jr. O’Connor depicted him as “a tramp and no one to be afraid of,” but in reality he is a man who makes and breaks his claims and it the process blemishing his company’s spirit. When he claims, “I can’t get married right now,” and later the trio goes into town to marry Mr. Shiflet and Lucynell Jr. is exactly the aim O’Connor wants to get across, hypocritical men. One may accidentally utter one statement and then act on the contrary, but in this short story Mr. Shiflet makes many remarks on his beliefs and almost opposing every one. One may inherit the impression that he is quite foolish by all of his self-righteous talk when he says people lie too much and later telling the youth she was a hitchhiker. On his way to Tuscaloosa he picks up a boy who only spoke telling him, “You go to the devil!” Both the boy and Lucynell Jr. represent innocence in this story and that opens Mr. Shiflet’s numb mind forcing him to change his perspective. Similar to Mr. Shiflet, yet not as repetitive as his hypocritical ways, the Bible salesman in “Good Country People,” says “I may sell bibles but I know which end is up.” This young man’s purpose in the beginning of the story is to sell a bible to a woman who refuses to buy one and later to the daughter. A blatant example of his inherit hypocrisy is also seen by Hulga when she says: “You’re just like them all – say one thing and do another. You’re a perfect Christian, you’re…” O’Connor outright expresses what she feels in all three of these short stories in that brief comment.
With men being hypocrites and women being gullible, O’Connor shows how well the two mix with each other. When Mr. Shiflet and Lucynell Sr. first meet he comments:
“How you know I ain’t Aaron Sparks, lady, and I come from Singleberry, Georgia, or how you know it’s not George speeds and I come from Lucy, Alabama, or how you know I ain’t Thompson Bright from Toolafalls, Mississippi.”
This is suggesting to the reader he actually could say any of them or any other far-fetched information and the Lucynell Sr. would most likely believe it. O’Connor is portraying how the women of the South do not have a mind of their own, but a universal southern mind in which does not protest or contradict anyone, but rather being close minded to the reality of the world that people lie. Just after meeting with the visitor Lucynell Sr. allows Mr. Shiflet to sleep in a car and fix miscellaneous items in exchange for meals. This is a very assertive action she takes, but since she believes him to be a harmless man she would never expect the proceeding events. Paralleling with “Good Country People,” O’Connor portrays the Freeman’s in the same situation as the Carters. Mrs. Freeman being approached by a persistent bible salesman is forced to make a decision and when he says “I’m just a country boy,” she immediately turns into a helpless pawn under his control. After he interjects that comment she now trusts him and this is when O’Connor represents the times women are most vulnerable to gullibility. A short while after Hulga has got to know the bible salesman she realizes that all of these die-hard “Chrustians” are all hypocrites and is the only one throughout the three stories who has this insight.
Another common thread between the these short stories by O’Connor is they all depict the man in the story as being “raised at mother’s knee.” Meaning that they sat on their mother’s knee while she read them the bible and greatly pampered them. Mr. Shiftlet’s opinion on his mother is: “She taught him his first prayers at her knee, she give him love when no other would, she told him what was right and what wasn’t, and she seen that he done the right thing.” O’Connor stresses the tidbit of information on the background of these men whom were raised at their mother’s knee in all three stories, suggesting a stereotype of this type of man.
Through O’Connor’s writings it is very apparent that she has issues with the men in her life and in turn affects general men that were raised at their mother’s knee being read the bible as hypocrites and the women who encounter these men as gullible. She shows how this combination of hypocrisy and gullibility can affect the most average of southern families.