Essay, Research Paper: Gullibility Hypocrisy

Literature: Flannery OConnor

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In Flannery O’Connors’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “Good
Country People,” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” she explores the
consequences of the combination of hypocrisy, gullibility in social contacts,
and the role of being raised at mother’s knee. Reared a strict Roman Catholic
and writing in the Bible Belt South O’Connor encountered those character flaws
first hand. The repetitive hypocrisy displayed in these three short stories is
portrayed by only the men suggesting that O’Connor has certain issues with
men. Tom Shiftlet in “The Life You Save May be Your Own,” wearing his black
town suit and brown hat met these two women, Lucynell Crater Sr. and her
daughter Lucynell Jr. O’Connor depicted him as “a tramp and no one to be
afraid of,” but in reality he is a man who makes and breaks his claims and it
the process blemishing his company’s spirit. When he claims, “I can’t get
married right now,” and later the trio goes into town to marry Mr. Shiflet and
Lucynell Jr. is exactly the aim O’Connor wants to get across, hypocritical
men. One may accidentally utter one statement and then act on the contrary, but
in this short story Mr. Shiflet makes many remarks on his beliefs and almost
opposing every one. One may inherit the impression that he is quite foolish by
all of his self-righteous talk when he says people lie too much and later
telling the youth she was a hitchhiker. On his way to Tuscaloosa he picks up a
boy who only spoke telling him, “You go to the devil!” Both the boy and
Lucynell Jr. represent innocence in this story and that opens Mr. Shiflet’s
numb mind forcing him to change his perspective. Similar to Mr. Shiflet, yet not
as repetitive as his hypocritical ways, the Bible salesman in “Good Country
People,” says “I may sell bibles but I know which end is up.” This young
man’s purpose in the beginning of the story is to sell a bible to a woman who
refuses to buy one and later to the daughter. A blatant example of his inherit
hypocrisy is also seen by Hulga when she says: “You’re just like them all
– say one thing and do another. You’re a perfect Christian, you’re...”
O’Connor outright expresses what she feels in all three of these short stories
in that brief comment. With men being hypocrites and women being gullible,
O’Connor shows how well the two mix with each other. When Mr. Shiflet and
Lucynell Sr. first meet he comments: “How you know I ain’t Aaron Sparks,
lady, and I come from Singleberry, Georgia, or how you know it’s not George
speeds and I come from Lucy, Alabama, or how you know I ain’t Thompson Bright
from Toolafalls, Mississippi.” This is suggesting to the reader he actually
could say any of them or any other far-fetched information and the Lucynell Sr.
would most likely believe it. O’Connor is portraying how the women of the
South do not have a mind of their own, but a universal southern mind in which
does not protest or contradict anyone, but rather being close minded to the
reality of the world that people lie. Just after meeting with the visitor
Lucynell Sr. allows Mr. Shiflet to sleep in a car and fix miscellaneous items in
exchange for meals. This is a very assertive action she takes, but since she
believes him to be a harmless man she would never expect the proceeding events.
Paralleling with “Good Country People,” O’Connor portrays the Freeman’s
in the same situation as the Carters. Mrs. Freeman being approached by a
persistent bible salesman is forced to make a decision and when he says “I’m
just a country boy,” she immediately turns into a helpless pawn under his
control. After he interjects that comment she now trusts him and this is when
O’Connor represents the times women are most vulnerable to gullibility. A
short while after Hulga has got to know the bible salesman she realizes that all
of these die-hard “Chrustians” are all hypocrites and is the only one
throughout the three stories who has this insight. Another common thread between
the these short stories by O’Connor is they all depict the man in the story as
being “raised at mother’s knee.” Meaning that they sat on their mother’s
knee while she read them the bible and greatly pampered them. Mr. Shiftlet’s
opinion on his mother is: “She taught him his first prayers at her knee, she
give him love when no other would, she told him what was right and what
wasn’t, and she seen that he done the right thing.” O’Connor stresses the
tidbit of information on the background of these men whom were raised at their
mother’s knee in all three stories, suggesting a stereotype of this type of
man. Through O’Connor’s writings it is very apparent that she has issues
with the men in her life and in turn affects general men that were raised at
their mother’s knee being read the bible as hypocrites and the women who
encounter these men as gullible. She shows how this combination of hypocrisy and
gullibility can affect the most average of southern families.
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