Essay, Research Paper: Good Man Is Hard To Find

Literature: Flannery OConnor

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Flannery O’Connor “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” A Southern American
novelist and short story writer, Miss O’ Connor’s career spanned the 1950s
and early ‘60s, a time when the South was dominated by Protestant Christians.
O’Connor was born and raised Catholic. She was a fundamentalist and a
Christian moralist whose powerful apocalyptic fiction is focused in the South.
Flannery O’Connor was born March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia. O’ Connor
grew up on a farm with her parents Regina and Edward O’ Connor. At the age of
five, she taught a chicken to walk backwards. O’Connor attended Georgia State
College for women, now Georgia College, in Milledgeville, majoring in sociology.
She had showed a gift for satirical writing, as well as cartooning since she was
a child. By the end of her undergraduate education, O’Connor knew that writing
was her true passion. She spent two years at the prestigious School for Writers
at the State University of Iowa on scholarship, receiving a master’s degree of
fine arts in 1947 (Candee 318). In 1950, she had a near fatal attack of systemic
lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic inflammatory connective tissue disorder.
that causes periods of joint pain and fatigue, and can attack the hearts, lungs,
and kidneys. Her father died of the disease when she was fifteen (Blythe 49).
O’Connor would have to walk with crutches for the rest of her life. By her
death at the age of 39, Flannery O’Connor won a prominent place in modern
American literature. She was an anomaly among post-World War II writers, a Roman
Catholic from the Bible–Belt South, whose stated purpose was to reveal the
mystery of God’s grace in everyday life. Aware that few readers shared her
faith, O’Connor chose to depict salvation through shocking, often violent
action upon characters who were spiritually or physically grotesque (Ryiley
334). Flannery O’Connor’s significance as a writer is her original use of
religion. Like no other short story writer, she dramatizes religious themes in
her fiction stories. She is established as one of the most gifted and original
fiction writers of the 20th century. “Everything That Rise must converge,”
and “ Revelation” won first prize in the O. Henry awards for short stories.
“The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and A “Circle in the Fire” won
second prize in the O. Henry awards. “The Complete Stories of Flannery
O’Connor” won the National Book Award in 1971 (Bloom 145-146). O’
Connor’s work is inspired by the sense of the mystery of human nature. She
tends to use good vs. evil and death to shock and startle her readers into an
awareness of the theological truth of faith, the fall, the redemption, and the
judgment (Riley 367). Some critics describe her writing as harsh and negative
while people in the religious community wanted a happier communication of the
faith. O’Connor described her characters as “poor afflicted in both mind and
body, with little or at best a distorted sense of spiritual purpose”(Harris
& Fitzerald 336). O’Connor claims she understood the universe created by
God as good and evil. In a letter to a friend, she complained about a review
that called her short story collection, A Good Man is hard To Find, brutal and
sarcastic. “The stories are hard,” she wrote. “But they are hard because
there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism”(qtd. In
Harris & Fitzerald 336). O’Connor likes to focus on the rough, often ugly
memories of the place she knew best, the rural South. She saw her world as
sacrament, brushed with grace, twisted, beaten, but still straining toward her
belief in God. The settings of her stories and novels are either Georgia or
Tennessee, often backwoods or rural areas. She gives her characters a southern
accent because this is the area she knows best. O’ Connor uses common symbols,
such as sunsets that resemble blood drenched Eucharistic host, preening peacocks
that represent Christ’s transfiguration, and the trees themselves writhe in
spiritual agony (Bloom 49). Some critic’s say that she is trying to convert
her readers, whom she assumes are non-believers. The story “A Good Man is Hard
To Find” begins with a family planing to take a vacation to Florida. The
grandmother who does not want to take the vacation in Florida is persuading the
family. She has read about a crazed killer by the name of the Misfit, who is on
the run, heading for Florida. The mambas of her family ignore the grandmother.
On the day of the trip, ironically, the grandmother is dressed in her Sunday
best. She is decked in white gloves and navy blue dress with matching hat. She
is the first one in the car and ready to go. O'Connor is getting the reader to
visualize the Southern culture. The grandmother’s purpose of dressing this way
is to be recognized as a lady, in case someone saw her dead on the highway. This
tells me the grandmother’s thoughts of death are shallow. Later in the story,
the Misfit says, "There never was a body that gave the undertaker a tip.”
(qtd, in DiYanni 202) The grandmother’s readiness for death is an indication
that she does not want to go where there is a prisoner on the loose. However,
her readiness for death changes when she recognizes the Misfit. As the trip
progresses, the children act like brats. O'Connor is illustrating the lost
respect for the family and elders. The family's encounter with Red Sammy Butts
serves as another way O'Connor expresses how trust and respect have begun to
wear away. The grandmother makes the mistake of telling the children the story
of a nearby house that has a secret panel. The children scream until the father,
Bailey, gives in and takes them to see the house. On the way down the long windy
road that leads to the house, the cat gets out of his cage and jumps on Bailey's
shoulder, resulting in the car being overturned. As everyone is getting
themselves together, a car with three men approaches. The grandmother recognizes
the Misfit at once. The Misfit reveals himself as polite and sociable and even
apologizes to the grandmother for Bailey’s rudeness to her. However, the
Misfit does not waste any time as he asks one of his cronies to escort Bailey
and John Wesley off into the woods to meet their fate. The grandmother and the
Misfit engage in a conversation, which is supposed to have a religious meaning.
The grandmother tries to appeal to the Misfit by saying he isn’t a bit common.
The Misfit goes on to tell a story about his family, and how he was the type of
child to question everything. He continues on to talk about periods of a
criminal’s life. The grandmother’s prayer of advice gives evidence that they
are on two different levels of understanding the Christian faith. O’Connor
gives the reader the impression that he is a prophet gone wrong. After the
Misfit has the cronies take the mother, daughter, and baby to the woods, the
grandmother is left alone with the Misfit, who continues to talk about how Jesus
was punished. However, the Misfit has escaped punishment. The grandmother
responds in the only way she knows how to by clinging to her superficial beliefs
about “good blood” and behaving as a gentleman would. She has limited
understanding of religion and cannot even begin to connect with the Misfit. The
grandmother notices the Misfit as he is about to cry. She reaches out her hand
and says, “Why you’re one of my babies” The Misfit, who is affected by
what she says, jumps back and shoots her three times.

Bibliography
Bloom, Harold. (1986). Modern Critical Views. New York : Chelsea House.
Blythe, Hal.(1999).Flannery Mary O’Connor Biography. The Explicator. [online].

. Candee,Marjorie. (Eds.). (1958). Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W.
Wilson Company. DiYanni, Robert. (1983).Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry,
Drama, and the Essay. ( 4 th. Ed.). Harcourt Brace & Company. Riley, Carolyn
(Eds). (1975). Contemporary Literary Criticism.Detroit: Gale Research Company.
Harris ,& Fitzerald (Eds.).3 (1988). Short Story Criticism. Kansas City:
Gale Research Company. Bibliography Bloom, Harold. (1986). Modern Critical
Views. New York : Chelsea House. Blythe, Hal.(1999).Flannery Mary O’Connor
Biography. The Explicator. [online].
. Candee,Marjorie. (Eds.). (1958). Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W.
Wilson Company. DiYanni, Robert. (1983).Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry,
Drama, and the Essay. ( 4 th. Ed.). Harcourt Brace & Company. Riley, Carolyn
(Eds). (1975). Contemporary Literary Criticism.Detroit: Gale Research Company.
Harris ,& Fitzerald (Eds.).3 (1988). Short Story Criticism. Kansas City:
Gale Research Company.
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