Flannery O Connor Essay, Research Paper
In Flannery O Connor s A Good Man is Hard To Find, one is struck by the unexpected violence at the end of the story. However, if one re-reads the story a second time, they will see definite signs different angles and point of views that the author uses including foreshadows of the ending.
The story begins with the typical family being challenged by the grandmother who doesn’t want to take the vacation to Florida. She has read about a crazed killer by the name of the Misfit who is on the run heading for Florida. Unfortunately, she is ignored by every member of the family except for the little girl, June Star, who can read the grandmother like an open book. The fact that she admonishes Bailey, her son, of this Misfit and “what he did to those people” (117) foreshadows what will happen to them. As readers, we know that O Connor will not mention such an interesting fact without having it affect the characters later on in the story.
Additionally, the morning of the trip the grandmother is the first one in the car ready to travel as June Star predicted she would be, “She wouldn t stay at home for a million bucks. She has to go everywhere we go” (118). I personally read as a direct foreshadowing of the grandmother s death. As one reads the story, one wonders why every time Bobby Lee and Hiram take someone into the forest, they never come back. Eventually, the whole family is taken to die. June Star s comment that the grandmother goes everywhere the family goes can be read as an indication that she will meet the same end that they did.
Furthermore, although the grandmother did not want to go to Florida, she ironically dresses in her Sunday best. She was dressed very nicely with:
A navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a snavy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. (118).
A strong foreshadowing imagery can be read into these lines. Knowing the definite ending of the story, the grandmother s elaborate dress symbolizes a preparation for her coffin. When a person dies, they usually are dressed in their best outfit, just like the grandmother was dressed in what seemed to be her Sunday best. A stronger foreshadowing is when O Connor states the reason for the grandmother s immaculate dress, “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.” She herself predicts her own death. Unfortunately, she doesn t know this yet. Although this is beyond the boundaries of this paper, it is interesting that in the grandmother’s mind wearing her best clothes prevent any misgivings about her status as a lady if she was to die. But as the Misfit later points out, “there never was a body that gave the undertaker a tip.” The grandmother’s perceived readiness for death is a stark contrast to her behavior when she encounters the Misfit; for she shows herself to be the least prepared for death.
As the trip progresses, the children reveal themselves as funny, spoiled brats. O’Connor’s desire to illustrate the lost respect for the family and elders among the young is quite apparent in her illustrations of the children. One notices another foreshadowing image when the family “passed by a cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island” (119). It is not an accident that the number of graves “five or six” matches the exact number of people in the car. There are 5 people and a baby. Since a baby is not exactly a full complete person, the obscureness of the number of graves being “five or six” is appropriate. Furthermore, this particular foreshadowing image leads directly into the next one:
“Look at the graveyard!” the grandmother said, pointing it out. “That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation.”
“Where s the plantation?” John Wesley asked.
“Gone With the Wind,” said the grandmother. “Ha. Ha.” (120)
The grandmother s reference to the plantation as “gone with the wind” can be seen as an image symbolizing the family s state at the end of the story. Their souls are “gone with the wind” as well upon death.
Similarly, it is almost humorous how O Connor sets her readers up for the ending of the story. For example, the name of the town where the Misfit kills them is “Toombsboro.” The word Toombsboro can be divided into two words: Tombs and Bury. Put together with a slight southern accent gives the word “Tombsbury” which is very close to “Toombsboro.” Another quite interesting imagery is when the grandmother asks the Misfit, “What did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?” (130). His answer further foreshadows the death of the family. He says, ” Turn to the right, it was a wall, looking up again at the cloudless sky. Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor ” (130). This description, although used for a jail cell, could also apply to a tight grave. Wherever a soul looks, they will see a wall, indicating where the grandmother will be once the Misfit is finished with them.
Additionally, another change is made during the Misfit s and the grandmother s conversation towards the end. He says “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain t punished at all?” (131). As a reader, I can see that the Misfit will kill the grandmother. After all she “ain t punished” for her crimes of stubbornness, self-centeredness, and lying.
Finally, the grandmother includes in her conversation with the Misfit the importance of prayer. O Connor puts emphasis on the importance of prayer which symbolizes her realization of death.
In conclusion, Flannery O Connor uses strong imagery to foreshadow and different angles, changing the point of view from one character to the next. She first gives her readers a taste of the ending by mentioning the Misfit s murderous tendencies, peaking her reader s curiosity. She then changes shifts the mood of the story and uses numerous images such as the grandmother s dress, the graveyard, and the conversation with the Misfit to further feed our imagination. Her foreshadowing images and narrative distance are both strong and obscure.