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A Good Man is Hard to Find!

As I read the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor I tried to keep in mind the writer and her background which surely influenced the story. This was evident in her references to the South, particulary Tennessee and Georgia (even Florida). I have to say that in general I enjoyed the story and didn't find it to be too long or difficult to understand. In the begining of the story O'Connor used a bit of foreshadowing about 'The Misfit' as she mentioned him two separate times. The first time was to Bailey as the grandmother warned him about going to Florida and then again at the diner/road house. Because of that I wasn't really surprised when he showed up later at the site of the car crash.

I thought it was intruiging how the grandmother was just refered to as 'The Grandmother' and the same went for how the wife was talked about. It was like they never mentioned their real names and I found that interesting and obviously intentional. I'm not quite sure why at this point though the author did that. In class we discussed the feeling that the grandmother almost was like a ghost because she was so isolated from the rest of the family and going on that premis I can conclude that just calling her 'The Grandmother' was done to emphasize her loneliness. This could also present the idea that the family didn't even care enough about her to mention her by name. As for the mother, I am still not sure why O'Connor did that. I can guess that she may not have been in need of a name because she wasn't really a main player in the story directly.

My impression of all the characters in the immediate family (comprised of Bailey, the wife and the children) was that they were all rude and very disrespectful towards the grandmother. Their deaths really didn't phase me like the death of the old woman. Honestly I thought 'The Misfit' would spare her that surprised me completely when he shot her not once but three times. It was an almost brutal murder, once probably would have done it, yet 'Tthe Misfit' adds to the violence of the kill. One thing that I noticed towards the end of the story was the similarities between the grandmother and the cat 'Pitty Sing.' The father Bailey, disliked the cat and showed no real emotion towards it. He even throws it up against a tree when the car crashes out of anger towards the grandmother for bringing it. Bailey takes out his anger for his mother on the cat that represents her.

When 'The Misfit' kills the grandmother the cat remains in the area and even brushes up against the murderous outlaw. As the grandmother tried to find the good in him (The Misfit), the cat knows that deep down there is something still pure in this man and does not react harshly towards him. Any normal cat would flee at the sounds of gunshot. 'The Misfit' would relate better and bond more with an animal than a human, but I think it has a lot to do with his character flaws. He feels as if the only ones (people etc) he can trust are like him, either evil human beings that give into their animal instincts to kill or in fact animals (hence the cat) that would kill to survive as well. Killing is all he has ever known. I think the author almost wanted the audience to like 'The Misfit' and take pity on him because there is no doubt he has had a hard life.

There is a hint or irony in the story due to the fact that the grandmother was the reason in which the entire family was murdered. She wanted to go down the sketchy old dirt road to see this beloved plantation which she later remembers isn't even in Georgia but rather Tennessee. I'm not quite sure if there is a moral to this story that I can directly comprehend but I would like to try and identify a theme: The past was better to live in than the present. More specifically, the past in the South was better to live in. There is a slight reference to Sherman which is an obvious allusion to the Civil War which consequently was followed by Reconstruction, a time in which the South was forced to change immensely from their old ways and traditions.

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" ASN.

Comments (3)

Jamie:

I totally disagree with your interpretation of the story. First of all, the grandmother is not treated with respect not because the characters simply dont like her for no good reason, but because well.. look at the type of person she is. She is manipulative and annoying. For example when she wants to see the old house which she is not even sure is there, she convinces the grandchildren by feeding them lies. The Father ends up going because he cant deal with the annoying children. She is also always nagging at Baily, about the speed limit limit, about how he is driving etc. Finally, when they crash and run in with the bandit, the grandmother states: " you wouldnt shoot a lady, would you?" With no mention of the children or her son, this statement clearly portrays her selfish nature. The grandmother's attempts at convincing 'the bandit' he is a good man is yet another feeble attempt at saving her own neck.
Furthermore, the reason the mother and grandmother have no name, is because they are women. This story adresses feminism in this manner, by making the women out to be hopeless( the hopeless mom with her broken arm). The reason the daughter June Star has a name is that she is not yet a Man's woman, in a sense.
However, I agreed with your views as the grandmother living in the olden days, however with her inability to grow out of the olden days, her character flaw is represented.

I totally disagree with your interpretation of the story. First of all, the grandmother is not treated with respect not because the characters simply dont like her for no good reason, but because well.. look at the type of person she is. She is manipulative and annoying. For example when she wants to see the old house which she is not even sure is there, she convinces the grandchildren by feeding them lies. The Father ends up going because he cant deal with the annoying children. She is also always nagging at Baily, about the speed limit limit, about how he is driving etc. Finally, when they crash and run in with the bandit, the grandmother states: " you wouldnt shoot a lady, would you?" With no mention of the children or her son, this statement clearly portrays her selfish nature. The grandmother's attempts at convincing 'the bandit' he is a good man is yet another feeble attempt at saving her own neck.
Furthermore, the reason the mother and grandmother have no name, is because they are women. This story adresses feminism in this manner, by making the women out to be hopeless( the hopeless mom with her broken arm). The reason the daughter June Star has a name is that she is not yet a Man's woman, in a sense.
However, I agreed with your views as the grandmother living in the olden days, however with her inability to grow out of the olden days, her character flaw is represented.

Hama:

You both make really interesting points. This story is so interesting in the way that it divides people. It seems you either believe that the grandmother is a flawed but harmless woman who has a change of heart in the end, or that she's manipulating and selfish all the way. Since you see everything from the grandmother's POV, you have a tendency to empathize with her, yet you have to pay attention to her actions too.

From what I've read, I guess the way you interpret the story has something to do with whether you're religious or not or whether you're from the North or South of the United States. I'm not so sure about that, but more than one person felt like they had to mention it.

I personally liked the character of the grandmother because I tend to like old women characters in fiction, especially when they don't act like you think they should(well, if you know where my name comes from, you can see that). However, I probably wouldn't tolerate her actions from anyone else- and maybe a lot of other people feel that way too, and it's what makes the story so dividing.

I never thought that the reason the Grandmother and the Wife don't have names was because of female stereo types, Jamie. Since the story is told so closely to the grandmother's POV I thought that she didn't consider the wife all that important(especially when the wife's face was described as a cabbage) but I couldn't understand why the grandmother didn't name herself, unless she somehow didn't think of herself as important.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 28, 2005 7:53 AM.

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