Who Is The Real Criminal Essay Research

Who Is The Real Criminal Essay, Research Paper

Who Is The Real Criminal?

Nathan Coffin

Throughout her short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O Connor uses subtle characterization to establish the characters of the Misfit and the Grandmother. While some of the characteristics in the story are straightforward and easily understood, others require one to look beneath the surface. Upon one s first reading of the story, he or she most likely believes that the Misfit is a dangerous, bad criminal, and the grandmother just an old woman, but upon closer examination, it is obvious that, in fact, the Grandmother is the real villain of the story; while the Misfit is a man who feels he has a name to uphold and has learned many of life s lessons. First, the Grandmother introduces the Misfit early in the story when she states, That fellow that calls himself the Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen ( O Connor, 130) ; I wouldn t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it (130). Already, the reader is led to believe that the Misfit must indeed be an awful criminal. The Grandmother is also characterized early in the story. Her grandchildren state, She wouldn t stay at home for a million bucks. Afraid she d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go (130). It at least seems that early in the story that the Misfit is a bad man; while the Grandmother is just an old woman who enjoys spending time with her family. Next, although the Grandmother seems to be a sweet, old woman, there are several instances that point to the fact that she is manipulative and hypocritical. To begin with, while the family is in the car, the Grandmother tells June Star and John Wesley, In my time, children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and every thing else (131). Then, as they pass by a Negro child, the Grandmother exclaims, Oh look at the cute little pickaninny! (131) This instance proves that the Grandmother is a hypocrite. While trying to tell her grandchildren they should be more respectful as children in her time were, the Grandmother does the opposite. Second, The Grandmother knows how to manipulate people in order to flatter them to get what she wants. She tells the Children about a mansion she had once visited only because she hopes they can talk their father into visiting it again so she can see it. Thus, it is very obvious that the Grandmother is an extremely self-absorbed, manipulative woman. Last, there is the characterization of the Misfit. Even though he is in fact a dangerous man, his is not really the life he wants to lead. The Misfit is a man who questions existence as well as the system. He states, Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead. If he didn t, then it s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can- by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him (139). Throughout the story, the Misfit never lies. He is full of respect, particularly for women. Ironically, although he is a criminal, the Misfit is also a kind, honest man. The characterization in Flannery O Connor s A Good Man Is Hard to Find shows that the Grandmother is the real criminal in the story. All the qualities the Misfit represents- honesty, respect, and compassion- the Grandmother lacks. The story proves that just because the Grandmother is old does not necessarily mean she is kind and caring and just because the Misfit is a criminal does not necessarily make him a bad man. In fact, he has gotten more out of life than the Grandmother ever did. Works Cited O Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. An Introduction to Literature. (1997): 128-140.


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