Isolation and the Involvement of Evil

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The two short stories "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor and "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne both have characters who allow their lives to be altered by the threat and lure of evil. While the Misfit from Flannery O'Connor's short story seems to embrace the concept of and acts associated with evil, Brown from "Young Goodman Brown" seems to reject both evil and those associated with it. Although the Misfit and Brown have very different attitudes and take very different approaches to evil, both men eventually go astray and end up isolated from the society to which they once belonged.

From the very beginning of Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the sheer evil conveyed by the Misfit becomes apparent. In the opening paragraph of the short story, the grandmother openly voices her desire to travel to East Tennessee instead of Florida for fear of running into the Misfit, an apparently horrendous criminal who has recently escaped from prison. According to what the grandmother has read in the newspaper, the Misfit is rumored to be heading to Florida and she "wouldn't take [her] children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it" (1307). Even though the specific deeds committed by the Misfit are never explicitly stated, the implications of the severity of his crimes are seen through the grandmother's severe reactions to reading them. Because the Misfit is introduced as a character already effected by evil, the reader is unable to determine exactly where he went astray in his life. One thing that is clear about the Misfit, however, is the fact that he lives up to his name as he is ostracized from society for his dishonorable deeds. Following his brief introduction via the grandmother's assertions, the Misfit is only casually mentioned until his final encounter with the collective protagonists of the story. This leads the reader to almost forget about the Misfit as a factor in the narrative. When the...
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