Religious Symbolism in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"

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Religious Symbolism in the Grandmother and the Misfit
Flannery O’Connor has long been criticized for her blatant incorporation of religious symbols into sinister, dark stories. In the short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” the dark and apathetic Misfit is said to portray, in an allegorical sense, a Christ-like figure. However, through the interpretation of the inversions of divine characteristics, his repulsion of Christ’s very existence, and the denial of any powers beyond the observable realm, we find that the Misfit is actually representative of the Anti-Christ. Religion symbolism appears often in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”; the first appearances of religious symbolism are presented with the speech of the grandmother. In her speaking, the grandmother often uses references to religion when interacting with her own family and the Misfit. "Pray, pray,’ the grandmother began, ‘pray, pray . . ." demonstrates how the grandmother deals with conflict and adversity in her own life (O’Connor 643). When confronting the Misfit about how to handle his transgressions and wrongdoings, the grandmother states, “If you would pray, Jesus would help you,” demonstrating her ideals that Christianity will absolve the Misfit of his sins and crimes (O’Connor 644). Because the grandmother is adamant about religiosity in her own personal life, she reflects this trait by projecting religion into her solutions to the problems of others. The grandmother imposes religion upon the Misfit, who denies Christ and God’s saving power. When speaking to the Misfit about how he handled his adversity, she tell him “That's when you should have started to pray,” which alludes to how deeply incorporated religion is into the life and behavior of the grandmother (O’Connor 644). Criticisms have often been placed on the religious character of the grandmother. Because the grandmother emphasizes that the Misfit “must pray,” she is criticized for her demanding personality and forcefulness of religion upon others (O’Connor 644). The grandmother is even said to portray Peter because of her relationship with the Christ-like figure, the Misfit. This, however, is inaccurate because the Misfit is not actually a portrayal of Christ, but of the very thing Christ came to defeat – Satan. The Misfit is a symbol of the anti-Christ and is portrayed as such through the inversion of divine characteristics. As pointed by Marion Montgomery, “the devil she presents in her fiction is the devil Christ came to oppose, made articulate in a world largely given to him.” In the Bible, Jesus is a surrounded by little children, whom he loves. The Misfit is bother by little children, even stating, "Watch them children, Bobby Lee," he said. "You know they make me nervous" (O’Connor 642). Michael O. Bellamy emphasizes that this “set of inversion is consistent with the Misfit’s entire personality” (200). When the Misfit is called “a different breed of dog,” this shows the inversion of the word God itself, and “demonology is based on inverting the sacred” (O’Connor 643, Bellamy 200). Moreover, “the Misfit is a self-imposed title,” which is representative of “the figure of that ultimate misfit of Christian orthodoxy, Satan” (Montgomery 186). The emphasis on the Misfit’s alienation from society is show by the symbolism of the true misfit in Christianity. The rejection of Satan by God can be reversed to say that Satan rejects God, and thus the Misfit reject religion. Throughout the story, the Misfit is constantly in denial about the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the necessity of religion. The Misfit is a skeptic about Jesus and the resurrection. By stating that “Jesus shown everything off balance,” the Misfit directly places a sense of blame and wrongdoing upon the good intentions of Christ (O’Connor 644). O’Connor is able to convey the true repugnance of Jesus by the Misfit when the Misfit says: “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,’ The Misfit continued, ‘and He...
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