Professor Sharon Thiese
The Short Story
May 28th, 2012
Literary Analysis “Setting” – A Good Man is Hard to Find
In the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor starts out by giving a look at a dysfunctional family on a vacation, but ultimately, gives insight into ourselves as well as the nature of good and evil, how they can clash, and how they can co-exist, even in the same person. The setting, which plays a critical role in this short story because the grandmother shows her selfish wants and views on people and society and believes that things were much better in her early years. As the story unfolds the setting provides insights to the where the dysfunctional family will eventually meet their doom, which is caused by the actions of the grandmother. Written in 1955, readers can take the position that this story setting was to be in the era of the late 40’s or early 50’s like many of O’Conner’s stories. The grandmother does say in “the way Europe acted you would like we were made of money” (1046) which is in reference to the WWII being over and how the other countries portrayed the U.S. and the wealth of our country during that time. Another part of the story that proves this is the correct era is based on the way the grandmother dresses in preparation for a car accident so that if anyone seeing her dead would know that she was in fact a lady. Her “hat” which she also wears for the purpose of being represented as a woman is a major symbol in the story especially in the end when it is linked to her character and inner thoughts, but also can be linked to the time period.
During the car ride the grandmother is seen thinking and reminiscing about the past as they drive by the old plantations and cotton fields in which she again uses a hint to the time of the era by saying that the plantations have “Gone with the Wind”(1044) which was written in 1939. These are the times that she believes were the better days when she should have married the old suitor, Edgar Adkins Teagarden who she states “she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and ... a very wealthy man”(1044) and is linked to the title of the story and when people were better in her view. This is important to the setting as she continues to think about the past days and judges everything from her own personal views. Her statements about Mr. Teagarden show her flaws, in that she values money and material comforts more than relationships. More importantly, the passage where they passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in middle of it, like a small island (1044) is the first part in the story setting where the family may know they will die. There are six members in the family traveling, and they end up being stranded and trapped by the Misfit and his men, just like an island is surrounded by water.
The story takes place in Georgia, however the city is left nameless as to where the family originates and travels from. Like many other stories of O’Connor, she uses the rural setting of the south. No cities are mentioned to where the family is headed, just the state which is Florida. The grandmother mentions that she would rather head to direction of east Tennessee where she has connections in. At this point, another hint of the time era as John Wesley states that “Tennessee is a hillbilly dumping ground” and that “Georgia is a lousy state too” (1043). It also shows the character of John and that he also has the same money and material views as the grandmother regarding materialistic items. Readers also can think back about what some of the southern states and citizens may have been like during this time period. Georgia and Tennessee had many rich citizens with the cotton fields, but at the same time the rich were the ones getting rich and we make the conclusion that many parts of that state were very poor, and the rural setting would be a place that an escape inmate would instantly head...
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