’conner’s A Good Man Is Hard To Find Essay, Research Paper
A Good Man is Hard to Find
“A Good Man is Hard to Find presents a masterful portrait of a woman who creates a self and a world through language.” (Shenck 220) At least that is what Mary Jane Shenck thinks of the Flannery O’Connor story. Several different people have several different views of this controversial and climatic work of O’Connor’s. In this paper I will take a look at these different views of different situations and characters in this book.
First we will take a look at grandmother. She is made to look like the saint in this story. Her, in contrast to the rest, is the good person, always looking out for the best of others. She is not going on vacation, she is going to visit her “connections” in Tennessee. While on the drive, to their destination, she sits and admires the scenery as the others are more interested in the funny papers or the sports section. She brings the cat along on the trip for the good of the cat. She didn’t want the cat to accidently kill himself by turning on the gas on the stove or something. She is the “Christ-like” figure of this story, and this is more relevant at the end of the story when she confronts the Misfit. Just like in so many other O’Connor stories the grandmother, the good character, is going to take the hardest fall.
The Misfit appears many different ways in this story. His first appearance in the story he seems to be a scholar. Wearing his silver-rimmed glasses and a black hat. This description would also fit a description of a rabbi. This image comes just by looking at his head. His shirtless torso and blue jeans, which didn’t quite fit right, and gun in hand, kind of veer us away from thinking of him as being a good man. Of course the limitations of his character don’t stop at his appearance. He also is a record keeper. He writes down everything he does and signs it. This way he knows what he has done and what he hasn’t. He tells the grandmother this before killing her. The reason for doing this, in the Misfit’s mind, is so that he can match up the crime with the punishment and see if they are right for each other. If they are not then you know that the system hasn’t done their job correctly. He knows that his punishment is no mistake because he wrote down his actions. He respects the power of the words because they define what he does.
The other identity mask that the Misfit puts on is the mask of the Lone Ranger. He, though, is not looked upon as a white Lone Ranger, but a black Lone Ranger. The mixture of good and evil inside of him is a meanness in whole. He feels that he has saved the grandmother by shooting her. He even turns to one of his two henchmen, Bobby Lee, and tells him something along the line of that she would have been a good woman if she would have had someone there to shoot her all the time. The only pleasure that the Misfit got out of killing grandmother is the meanness behind the action.. (Schaub 233)
Now we take a look at the ending. The family had an accident on a back road, flipping their car. This occurred all because of grandmother. She told Bailey that the old plantation was along this way, and that the mansion had a secret panel in it. The kids went nuts to see this passage, and Bailey, the father, gave in and took them down this road to see it. The cat got uncomfortable from the whole situation and jumped on Bailey’s shoulder, causing the accident. If grandmother would have left the cat at home, like Bailey wanted her to, or even had not made up this story of the secret panel, then this accident would not have happened. When the Misfit and his gang show up the Misfit has his two henchmen, Bobby Lee and Hiram, kill the family. First taking Bailey and John Wesley, and then the mother and daughter into the surrounding woods to kill them. All of the gunshots could be heard by grandmother.
In the story the henchmen do not seem to count. They are considered nobodies. The evil deeds that they do are just unthought acts. They seem to be a dog that runs off with his masters steak as it accidently hits the kitchen floor. They instinctively kill the family because the Misfit told them to. Since these henchmen are moral morons, the moral evil of the families death is much less than the grandmothers. Sure the physical effect is the same, but morally grandmother’s death is more wrong. The two henchmen are incapable of committing a sin because of the moral ignorance. (Currie 225)
After the whole family has been took away to the woods grandmother and the Misfit are left at the roadside. This leads to the climax of the story. The stand off between the almighty good in this story and the almighty evil. “The Misfit and the grandmother are contrary aspects of the same problem.” (Currie 223) Not only is this the climax of the story but is also the climax of the grandmother’s fictionist ways throughout the story. The Misfit doesn’t accept these lies that the grandmother throws out. He realizes that there is no reality behind her words. Something that would have saved the family if Bailey was smart enough to realize this also.
There are many different aspects that are perceived from this final confrontation. At the very climax of the story grandmother has fallen into the ditch that the car had wrecked into, and is reaching to the misfit calling him one of her own. Either here she has lost touch of reality and confuses the misfit with her son Bailey, because the misfit is wearing Baileys tropical shirt, or maybe she has uttered her final fantasy. Either way she is “attempting a last ingratiating appeal for sympathies.” (Shenck 222) The Misfit reacts to this final effort for mercy by shooting her three times in the chest.
When grandmother touches the Misfit on the shoulder and tells him that he is one of her babies, one of her own, critics take her act as the same kind as the Ancient Mariner’s blessing the sea creatures and consequent lifting of the curse. As if she was cleansing his soul as God would after the sacrament of reconciliation.
The reference though, of grandmother being the Christ-like character of the story is most pertinent in the last scene. It is mentioned that her legs were crossed as she fell dead into the ditch after being shot. As to signify the cross that Jesus died on for his people. (Currie 223)
I believe that the whole scene is parallel to the scene in the garden between Jesus and Judas.
The grandmother reaching to the Misfit and calling him one of her own, same as Judas was one of Jesus’s own. And touching him on the shoulder, just as Jesus did to forgive Judas for what he has done and is going to do. The family is in reference to the disciples. No matter what it the acions were, they followed grandmother, the Christ-like figure. They also were oppressed, but by death, in a way as the disciples were for following Christ.
At the conclusion the reader is left with a vision of destruction of human life both literal and figurative that is absurd rather than tragic because the victims are not heroic figures reduced to misfortune, They are ordinary characters who meet a grotesque fate. (Shenck 222)
Currie, Sheldon. “A Good Grandmother is Hard to Find: Story as Exemplum,” The Antigonish Review (Spring-Summer 1990):143-55. Short Story Criticism. Vol. 23. 223-225.
Schaub, Thomas Hill. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Short Story Criticism. Vol. 23. 233-235.
Shenck, Mary Jane. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Short Story Criticism. Vol. 23. 220-223.