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February 12, 2006

They should have gone to Tennessee.

O'Connor, ''A Good Man Is Hard to Find'' -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" (pg. 21-22)

That line was the last bit of persuasion the grandmother tried in order to talk her way out of clutches of the Misfit. I found it unnerving that she continued to try to negotiate her own release even as her son, his wife and the three children were being summarily executed in the woods behind her. She behaved as though if she ignored it, it would go away.

I found it interesting the only two characters who weren't mentioned by name were "the grandmother" and "the Misfit." Given the periodic mention of the Misfit's prison escape, the fact they were heading in the same general direction, it was nearly a given the family and the Misfit would cross paths.

The grandmother clung to a set of values from a different period of time - when she was younger and men behaved like "Southern gentlemen" and would show deference to ladies. Other actions also indicated her mindset: she very casually referred to a black boy by using a racial epithet. I pictured her doing so with a hint of romanticism or nostalgia in her voice. The way she dressed was a throwback from the clothing the rest of the family wore.

She even made a joke about "Gone with the Wind." One of the oft-quoted lines from that story was Scarlett O'Hara remarking how she always depended upon the kindness of strangers. It was of course a stranger who showed them no mercy at all, perhaps a sign those values didn't hold true.

With her set of archaic values, it occurred to me the grandmother was also a "misfit" if one takes the word literally. She didn't view the world around her in contemporary terms.

But even as the Misfit and his cronies - including one named Bobby Lee (Robert E. Lee) - were killing the family, it was all done so civilly. Bailey's wife even said "thank you" when she knew she, her daughter and the baby were being led to their deaths.

I was confounded too, that the last remark Bailey made before he disappeared from sight into the woods was to call to his "mama". Why on earth would he not call to his wife? Strange that a married man with three children would have a relationship with his mom that supercedes that which he has with his wife.

The grandmother's last comments seemed to be aimed at trying to convince the Misfit that he came from a "good family", that he was "not common" and for that reason, he should be some sort of Southern gentleman and cease his barbaric behavior.

Posted by MattHampton at February 12, 2006 06:26 PM


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