Good Vs. Bad Essay, Research Paper
Webster?s defines ?Good? as ?opposite of bad; wholesome, useful, fit virtuous, able to fulfill engagements.? It is a word that is loosely used in the English language usually ascribed to things and people who are approved of by society. The word can be used as both an emotion and a description. Multi-faceted, it is used to represent different things with different meanings however it is always used and understood as something that is positive and beneficial. When one thinks about the word it brings about a sense of security for the individual. And as the definition states, ?good? is opposite of ?bad? which has been ingrained into the human mind as something negative without really knowing its true definition. But it is that desire not to associate oneself with the idea of bad that leads us to aspire to be good.
Flannery O?Connor, a Southern, twentieth-century writer could easily be described as a writer who takes the notion of good and seems to write the exact opposite in subject matter. She is a writer who seems to capture and encapsulate in her pieces those feelings most closely related to a man (and women?s) most base and crude behavior. In her now famous piece A Good Man is Hard to Find, O?Connor really shows off her talents in portraying her to-the-point writing and ?real-life? issues she writes about. This paper will incorporate the idea of good and the definition provided by Webster?s and relate it to the story. More specifically, the idea of good will is associated with The Misfit, the main character of the story who commits the heinous act of killing an entire family. What is O?Connor saying in her title? And perhaps more importantly is anyone really all good? This paper will try to answer those questions.
O?Connor?s A Good Man is Hard to Find, is a tale that involves a family that is brutally murdered by a man, The Misfit, who seems anything but good. He is a rogue; an escaped con who in his brief stint in the book seems almost approachable, creating an atmosphere around him that is neighborly-like. A man of older persuasion, he could be your grandfather in fact, he very might well be someone?s grandpa. However, his demeanor and tone change, and unfortunately for the family they change rather quickly and for the worse. Under his direction the entire family of five is brutally executed and no one is spared. The reader comes away with the feeling that The Misfit feels no remorse, expresses any distaste in his act. The story ends there.
The story raises the issue of ?good? and the title, after reading the story, almost forces the reader to agree with its sentiments. Is a good man really hard to find? When we look at The Misfit, is he truly not good, thus perhaps a man who is in deed in fact bad? Of course, the reader is left with a sense of despair at the conclusion of the story because there is no ?virtuous? or ?wholesome? acts committed by The Misfit. However, does this make him ?ungood?? Or could it be that one individual could be less good than another? Man is not infallible, we make mistakes and we do things that may be detrimental to one and to others. That said, the title raises an interesting inquiry for me. What makes a man good? If one goes through life without killing a single person does that make the individual good? The answer is obviously easy and that answer is no. However, it does not provide for us the tools to distinguish those people who are truly good.
The reason there are no tools for distinguishing between those who are truly good and those who are not is because there is no such thing as ?truly good.? No one possesses that trait and The Misfit and the grandmother-seemingly complete opposites in action and demeanor-validate that sentiment. The Misfit and his role in the story is neither ?good? nor ?bad? one. The Misfit cannot be considered ?good? or ?bad? because there are no rules for such distinction, as we will see with the grandmother who seems good, but in fact is not. The Misfit murdered however, murder in many places is considered not only good but appropriate. The sacrificing of an individual in order to appease an angry God is what is to be done. It is not considered murder, its religion. The same can be said for those who refuse medical treatment to help themselves overcome a disease. To many this is considered foolish and stupid, to Jehovah?s Witnesses it is not. Does that mean that The Misfit is not good and in fact bad? One cannot say. Would it be fair then to assess ones moral ?goodness? or ?badness? on one act no matter how malevolent or outlandish it may be? The answer must be NO for one act cannot not and most of the time does not chastise you as one or the other.
The other main character in the story is the grandmother. She could be considered The Misfit?s counterpart, his direct opposite. She appears to be a ?good? person but when one looks deeper we find that she is in fact not that good at all. She is condescending, ignorant and probably unaware to herself a racist. One can cast such a picture of her when we first see her apparent dislike and lack of respect for others when the family is driving in the car at the start of their vacation. She refers to a little black child as a ?pickaninny? describing him as cute using a tone and a manner that is befitting for an older white woman when addressing the inferior minority in the south. She is so oblivious of her actions and words that the reader becomes appalled (or at least this reader did) at the whimsical way she uses the term. She uses the word ?pickaninny? without reservation and such ease that it is clear that she has felt this way and acted this way for her whole life.
The grandmother seems to be that good person that is so hard to find but she truly is not. At the end of the story when she is at death?s door she pleads with The Misfit to spare her life. She tries every tactic she has to try to stop the inevitable ?I just know you?re a good man!? is the plea the grandmother makes to The Misfit in order to come out alive. The grandmother tries to appeal to The Misfit?s ?good? side (hahaha) trying to reassure him that he is in fact a good person and as the logic went for the grandmother if one is good then one is incapable of committing such a horrible act. The words she says to him offer her a false sense of security and in the end The Misfit squashes that feeling when he kills her. The reader at first is shocked by this almost senseless death because it looks as though a poor old woman had just been killed; however, the grandmother has those same traits as The Misfit. Although some would say to a lesser degree, the grandmother was not a ?good? woman with regards to the definition, in fact no one fits that description and O?Connor realizes this.
O?Connor believes that the search for that ?good man? is apparently very hard, and one need not look at The Misfit for someone who is the definition of not good. O?Connor suggests that in general, a good man is hard to find anywhere you go. This sentiment is agreed with by Red Sammy a character in the story who says, ?a good man is hard to find. Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.? This is a statement about the times O?Connor relates her feelings about America in the Deep South. The Misfit along with her other characters display that flaw that all humans possess and that is the flaw of being human. The fact that man is not perfect. Some would say that there are degrees of ?goodness? and O?Connor would agree with that, but just as we can say that man (and of course women) are incapable of being entirely bad the same can be sad of its opposite, man is incapable of being entirely good.
At the end of the book one of The Misfit?s henchman makes a remark about the grandmother after The Misfit had killed her. ?She was a talker wasn?t she? was the statement that was said. The Misfits response is an interesting one, and that is: ?She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.? The Misfit?s response tells the reader something. Only when faced with certain danger, when oneself is at the crossroads of life do we as humans try to repent and act as if ?good? is all that is in us. The Misfit?s response makes us all realize that only when the individual is faced with certain danger does he or she act in ways that are truly benevolent and virtuous. Then and only then are we fit and wholesome because it is at that moment that we truly believe we are and would act accordingly.
My first interpretation of A Good Man is Hard to Find was one that concentrated on hate and the apparent use and appearance of it in the story. However, after I read it over again I soon realized that it was not hate that was a central theme to the story but the exact opposite, the notion of good. What exactly is good? An abstract question with abstract answers. Flannery O?Connor addresses the human spirit and emotion and portrays them in vivid terms and uses them under circumstances that create for stories that may seem bleak and hard to swallow, but one cannot contest the validity and striking cord it rings for all of us. O?Connor wrote during a time where being ?good? meant segregation, discrimination and hate and being ?bad? ironically, was acting in a way opposite to that.