January 27, 2005

"A Good Man is Hard to Find". That's For Sure...

I wasn’t exactly sure what Dr. Jerz meant by “not getting” ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’. I thought, “And it begins. Long hard to read stories where the author just talks in circles and we’re supposed to pull miracle analyses out of it.” So I started reading the story slowly and carefully, picking apart each line for some hidden symbolism. Yet as I read further into it, I saw that it wasn’t some highly academic story with vague symbolic meaning. I actually enjoyed it, although I was a bit shocked.

The story started out pretty basic. A family from the 1950s traveling to Florida with the lively Grandmother in tow. Since The Misfit was mentioned early on, I assumed that they would meet up with him somehow. Yet I never expected the meeting to be so brutal. The killing of the family completely surprised me since the beginning was so docile.

After finishing “A Good Man is Hard to Find” I looked for the elements that Flannery O’Conner often included. The southern feel of the writing was apparent. The language used was distinctly southern and fit in with the setting. The religious element is also seen in the ending. While it may not be distinctly Catholic, her feelings on religion were clear. I also noticed O’Conner’s Gothic style early in the story. While the beginning was much lighter than the ending, it wasn’t exactly funny either.

Always searching for the meanings of writings, I looked into the death of all the main characters. The shock and awe factor is obvious. An author does not just decide “Hey, let’s kill off the main characters! Won’t that be a laugh?” There is probably more to it. Unless the author is a sadist. As Chris noted after his reading of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor”, when a main character is killed it means a lot more than if some insignificant one died. Mysteries are always killing small characters just for the sake of the mystery. Yet since we know who committed the crimes, the family’s death must be of more importance. These deaths play on emotions and feelings. We “knew” the characters and probably wanted the best for them. We were given no obvious reasons to dislike them, no reasons for wanting them dead. Everything is suddenly changed and the whole story changes course. We are now feeling confused, alarmed, and a little hurt at the deaths. Is the author showing the brutality of the south? Of human nature? Or just playing with our emotions and showing us we can feel for people who are not real?

Posted by VanessaKolberg at January 27, 2005 8:10 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I think that O'Connor was definitely trying to portray humans as materialistic, sinful creatures, especially considering all of the references to money and the lies the grandmother makes up.

I also feel that she may have been consciously trying to make us aware that sometimes people who seem innocent enough are actually 'devils in disguise'.

Posted by: ChrisU at January 27, 2005 10:47 PM

Chris noted how The Misfit is kind to the grandmother's cat. Early on in the trip, the grandmother warns her son about troopers hiding behind signs -- she's being a backseat driver, which can be very annoying. At one point she's playing with the baby, but look how O'Connor describes the scene -- "She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one." Later, the grandmother hopes that she was seriously injured so that she won't get blamed for something that she knows is her own fault. Even the scene when June Star does a cute little dance that earns a compliment from the inkeeper's wife compliments June Star, June Star responds with an insult. O'Connor doesn't offer any sentimental details.

Compare this with the pages and pages of description that a Victorian novelist writes of the heroine's struggles to recover from a fainting spell.

I don't know, Chris, whether people have to be devils in order to be human... or vice-versa. O'Connor's fiction takes place in a fallen world -- that is, sin is present, and human failings being what they are, there is no way to escape sin or the effects of sin.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 28, 2005 12:07 AM

I guess I'm soft-hearted, because I didn't really feel that the kids in the story were 'morally evil', or anything... I think it's kind of hard to be truly 'evil' when you're that young.

As for people being like devils, and the world in O'Connors story full of sin... I think that's being pretty realistic. 'Everyone has a darker side', and all that. In the story, it seems like we only ever really see the 'darker side' of every character except for the grandmother... In the end, she seems to display her 'brighter side' to the Misfit.

Posted by: ChrisU at January 31, 2005 10:00 AM

there is 2 things i dont understand after reading this story. 1. why is the Misfit so polite in appolagising for not wearing a shirt, and hepling every one out of the ditch???
2. why does the Misfit say that it didnt seem like all the punishment he recieves matched all the sinning he's done... does he not think that killing people is wrong??? why does he think he doesnt deserve punishment after all he's done???

Posted by: Ana destiny at September 29, 2005 11:34 AM

When the Misfit apologizes for not wearing a shirt, he's falsely displaying his "southern manners", strangely juxtaposing his murderous intent with a gentile display.

Posted by: Lisa at December 1, 2005 12:41 PM

I believe the Misfit felt he had already served time for crimes that he was accused of, but perhaps had not committed.

It could be that he murdered the family in an attempt to live up to the reputation he had acquired, but part of him felt was not deserved. In other words, I am already considered a harden criminal, I may as well act like one. Because whether or not he would have committed these heinous crimes, he felt he would get the time for them in the end.

Posted by: Estela at January 20, 2006 9:45 AM

With respect to #2:

If you look closely at the part where the Misfit accuses Jesus of messing it all up, he's referring to the raising of Lazarus. The line where the Grandmother says something like 'you're one of my children' seems to also be a reference to Jesus. It seemslike something he would have said, right? He also shoots the grandma 3 times (Peter betrayed Jesus 3 times), that only reinforces this.

Jumping straight to the point, the Misfit isn't at ease living in a world in which there is no justice. He feels, that when someone has died, that's it. Leave 'em. They're dead.

Jumping to the -real- point this time, in response to the punishment issue.
Jesus: pretty good guy, basically no sin
-Punished to the extreme!

Misfit: killing, crime etc.
-No real punishment.

The misfit is seeking to balance this world void of justice. If the misfit had a threat of serious punishment for murder etc. would he be changed? Yes.

So this also connects to question #1 about the politeness. THe misfit -on the inside - appears to be a good person. Even behind all the murders etc.

Posted by: K at January 22, 2006 7:14 PM

With respect to #2:

If you look closely at the part where the Misfit accuses Jesus of messing it all up, he's referring to the raising of Lazarus. The line where the Grandmother says something like 'you're one of my children' seems to also be a reference to Jesus. It seemslike something he would have said, right? He also shoots the grandma 3 times (Peter betrayed Jesus 3 times), that only reinforces this.

Jumping straight to the point, the Misfit isn't at ease living in a world in which there is no justice. He feels, that when someone has died, that's it. Leave 'em. They're dead.

Jumping to the -real- point this time, in response to the punishment issue.
Jesus: pretty good guy, basically no sin
-Punished to the extreme!

Misfit: killing, crime etc.
-No real punishment.

The misfit is seeking to balance this world void of justice. If the misfit had a threat of serious punishment for murder etc. would he be changed? Yes.

So this also connects to question #1 about the politeness. THe misfit -on the inside - appears to be a good person. Even behind all the murders etc. The good intent is definately there

Posted by: K at January 22, 2006 8:21 PM

What about the symbolism in the story? The monkey tied to the tree, the parrots on Bailey's shirt, and the yellow color?

I need to write an interpretive essay on this story by next Thursday for my Eng. Comp. 101 class. I'm having difficulty pulling together the meaning of it all.

Posted by: tekaldy at January 27, 2006 10:58 AM

I need to write an essay on the significance of the Christ-event in the Christian understanding of the world. I need to use the christology found in "A good man is hard to find." Any ideas?

Posted by: I at April 24, 2006 7:44 PM

I think it is most interesting that in the first paragraph of the story, the last couple of sentences, states the grandmother saying that she "wouldnt take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldnt answer to my conscience if i did." and yet that is exactly what she did by taking her misguided side trip to see a house that was in another state. It is also funny that she became a "jail house christian" when faced with death but the misfit who had actually been jailed had not had such an epiphany

Posted by: brandi at November 15, 2006 2:53 PM

I think that reason he says he doesn't feel the crimes matched the punishment is because of his father. After reading this, I got the idea that his father was most likely abusive to him and his mother, but maybe not his siblings. [Where he says, "I've even seen a woman flogged..." his mother?]

So when he says that he's been punished past the extent of the crime, I think he's referring to his childhood as the "punishment", not the prison time. All the crimes he is committing now are to compensate for his childhood. To make himself do something that would be worthy of the abuse he received as a child.

Then at the end, I think he realizes that people are human and need forgiveness. When the grandmother has that pivotal moment where she honestly sees God in him, she realizes it's her duty to forgive. Seeing a woman who is as self-centered and greedy as the grandmother was become so sincerely concerned, startled him. She was able to forgive someone who had just murdered her entire family. This really gets to him and he realizes that he could have been forgiven and that he should also forgive his father, rather than murdering him. She gets to him and he panics and shoots her.

Posted by: Jordan at June 14, 2007 5:30 PM
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