, Research Paper
Summary and Critique of Two Articles on O Connor s A Good Man is Hard to Find
The article Flannery O Connor s A Good Man is Hard to Find: The Moment of Grace by Michael Clark focuses on the climax of the story: the Grandmother s final act, her touching of the misfit, and its religious and realistic implications. Clark questions her last gesture by asking,
Should the Grandmother s final act– her touching of the misfit be taken as a token of true,divine grace and spiritual insight? Or should the story be interpreted strictly as a naturalistic
document? (1) O Connor refers to the Grandmother s final gesture as a moment of grace. Sloan states that many critics tend to disagree with O Connor s belief that the final act was a moment of grace; rather they prefer to stress the realistic explanation of grace, a more naturalistic grace. Stanley Renner is also uncomfortable with the religious explanation of the climax; he describes
the final gesture as, a vague touch, a parental blessing, or the ceremonial dubbing of knighthood (Clark 1). According to Clark this explanation sees the Grandmother s response as one that not so much reflects divine grace as it touches her instinctive springs of sympathy and human kinship (Clark 1). Other critics interpret the Grandmother s final act as expressing her
final hope that her noblenesse can alter her fate (Clark 1). Clark believes this particular interpretation gives the final gesture a selfish, mundane, and unredeeming sense about it. The question of whether O Connor s interpretation should be judged as right or wrong emerges. Clark believes the old dictum of trust the tale not the teller applies. He also believes you must consider the stories connection with the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy of the bible.
Hallman Bryant, in an article written before Clark s, noted that there is no Timothy, Georgia,and persuasively argues that O Connor is referring to the book of Timothy in the New Testament of the bible. Bryant points out that 2nd Timothy can help explain the crux of the story, it provides a subtext for the central and problematic episode in O Connor s story, the grandmother s moment of grace (Clark 2) 2nd Timothy also stresses that true grace is associated with the tradition of the laying on of hands. Clark believes that the Grandmother is immolating Paul s action in 2nd Timothy in the touching of the misfit. Both events emphasize the grace which accompanies charismatic physical contact (Clark 2) Clark suggests that all critics must acknowledge and account for O Connor s biblical allusions, as well as the fact that all human beings, even the self-satisfied grandmother, have the potential to experience
epiphanies that could save them from the sour and life-denying restrictions that human beings may labor under. These are moments that historically we have come to define as religious. The article O Connor s A Good Man is Hard to Find by Gary Sloan focuses on the character of the Misfit, mainly concentrating on how his mental capabilities and religious beliefs impact his behavior. Sloan openly agrees that the misfit is the bad seed in the story, and although
evidence of the Misfit s intellectual ability is not readily available, he is still pictured as a man of great mental acumen and of no mean wit. O connor herself states, the grandmother s wits are no match for the Misfits (Sloan 1) Sloan also believes his skepticism had been greatly exaggerated, belief is his dominant gene, doubt recessive, almost nil. He acknowledges the miraculous efficacy of prayer while disavowing and desire for it (1) The misfit believes in God,his conception is based on deity coming from magical feats. He thinks the crux of religion is whether or not what is dead stays that way. Sloan suggests what impresses him about Jesus Christ is that he reportedly could raise the dead (2) The Misfit later contradicts himself by saying Jesus shouldn t have raised the dead because it threw everything off balance. Sloan says he uses this to justify his criminality and if he simply knew for sure whether or not he raised the dead he wouldn t be the way he is. He wants to continue in his life as it is without fear of retribution for his actions. O Connor characterized the shooting of the grandmother as a recoil,a horror at her humaneness (Sloan 2). Sloan believes he may also be recoiling from his own
humaneness. The murder is perhaps vicarious attempt at self-slaughter: He seeks to destroy his compulsion to believe because, in his moral computations, belief cannot be squared with pleasure (Sloan 2)Sloan suggests that although the grandmother is at the dramatic center of the story it is the misfit who changes her outlook on life and forces her to think, and due to her connection
with the misfit she dies redeemed. Sloan states, treated as a catalyst for the grandmother s epiphany, the Misfit is a fruitful device (Sloan 2) Sloan concludes by stating, the Misfit s sniveling befuddlement, self-justification, and skewed ethics betray a muddled intellect and, worse, a dangerous one (Sloan 2) Michael Clarke s article Flannery O Connor s A Good Man is Hard to Find: The Moment of Grace questions the story s climax, and whether or not it was a sincere moment of grace. Clarke and the many critics included in his article tend to go against O Connor s belief that the climax was a sincere moment of grace, and prefer the realistic naturalistic explanation of
grace. I agree with Clark and the other critics in going against O Connor s belief. However, I think the best critic interpretation in the article of the final gesture is; her final act was simply part of a desperate hope that her nobleness could change her fate. I disagree with Clark and the other critics who read more into it than that. I also disagree with the presentation of the idea that the epiphany was this great spiritual awakening of the grandmother, I think the epiphany was superficial and just another part of her desperate attempt alter her impending demise. However, I agree with Clark s suggestions that O Connor uses biblical allusions in the writing of the story. Considering the fact that Timothy, Georgia does not exist it makes a lot of sense that she came up with the name of this town based on the book in the New Testament. I disagree with Sloan s belief that the touch of the grandmother upon the misfit replicates Paul s laying of hands on Timothy in the New Testament. I find it a unique coincidence, but I see no solid evidence to support a replication of Paul s act. I like the way Clark broke down the climax and looked at it from more than one perspective. Again, I think the most solid point of the article was the point of the critics who believed the grandmother s final act was not a sincere moment of grace,instead just a desperate attempt to prolong her life and maybe alter her gloomy fate. Gary Sloan s article O Connor s A Good Man is Hard to Find focuses solely on the character of the Misfit from his mental capabilities to his religious beliefs and his way of life. Sloan looks at the Misfit as a very mentally capable man of no mean wit. I don t necessarily
disagree with the view of the Misfit as a mentally capable man despite a lack of evidence in the story. However, I strongly disagree with Sloan s belief the Misfit was of no mean wit. He killed five people that we know of in cold blood and probably more, and yet he does not seem at all remorseful. I think Sloan presents a strong critique throughout the rest of his article. I also believe that the Misfit believes in Jesus and he is obviously fascinated with Jesus ability to raise the dead. I think Sloan makes a great point in saying that the Misfit uses the fact that he is unsure of whether or not Jesus actually raised the dead to justify his hardened criminality. Sloan also makes a strong point in saying that the Misfit wants to continue his life of criminality without
having to pay for his actions. I also think Sloan makes a strong point in saying that the grandmother s humane final plea was starting to get to the Misfit, and the shooting of her was a recoil, a horror at her humaneness. Finally, although I don t think the grandmother s epiphany was a sincere religious, grace filled occurrence, I do agree that the Misfit was the catalyst for the climax of the story, the grandmother s final act.