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Comparing Flannery O'Connor's short stories: "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge"

By pmoss Jan 11, 2007 1139 Words
Upon in-depth analysis, it becomes evident that in Flannery O'Connor's works, arrogant, conceited, egotistical and overly prideful characters receive the unbearable manifestation of their own shallow, petty and superficial selves. O'Connor's characters are tragically unaware of their own egoism. The characters' excessive pride blinds them to their own flaws. When characters finally acquire some level of rationality, it is always at the cost of the life of someone else; hence death becomes a manifestation of their ruthless ego. It seems that O'Connor goes beyond good and evil and leaves definition of these terms as an open question.

Manicheans/Dualists believe that good and evil are the two primary forces existing in the universe; Christians believe there is only good and all evil is a perversion of good; O'Connor's stories exemplify that individual evil arises due to egoism and lack of self-analysis. For example, the grandmother in A Good Man is Hard to Find is very deceptive and untruthful to her own family due to her selfish desire to see a house that she had seen in her youth.

"There was a secret panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . ."

She diverted the family's attention from their objectives and took advantage of her own grandchildren in order to get some petty satisfaction. Even worse, it ended up getting the entire family killed. Just because she was 'wishing' that she told the truth doesn't make the fact that she lied any less deceitful. A careful look at Everything That Rises Must Converge, reveals quite a few examples of egoistic traits, something that both Julian (the son) and his mother posses. Julian's mother is so proud of her family line that she approaches everyone else as inferior. Superiority complex as such leads her to spend plenty of time trying to create a noble image of herself. Julian, on the other hand, is much more condescending, although he loves and cares a great deal about his mother, he is critical of her with the subconscious motive of making her a better person. Over time, however, he convinces himself that the criticism he feels is not love, but rather hate; he feels that he is incomparably smarter than others and fails to acknowledge that the basic emotions of all human persons are the same.

Excessive focus on emotion makes one irrational; and pride is no exception. In both stories, an overabundance of pride of a character leads to the climax that usually leads to the character having an extreme lack of pride. In A Good Man is Hard to Find the grandmother's pride is among the direct causes of her and her family's death.

The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. "You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at once!"

It is quite evident that the grandmother was so proud of knowing that she had recognized the misfit that she didn't even think of the consequences before she blurted it out; her pride blinded her from rationale. Similarly, in Everything That Rises Must Converge Julian's mother offered a penny to a little boy who was with his mother.

"Oh little boy!" Julian's mother called and took a few quick steps and caught up with them just beyond the lamppost. "Here's a bright new penny for you," and she held out the coin, which shone bronze in the dim light.

There was no indication that the boy needed a penny or any money at all for that matter, but Julian's mother assumed that the boy needed it and the boy's mother was offended and proceeded to strike Julian's mother. Despite the well known fact that no one gives a dim to those who do not beg, Julian's mom's selfish pride makes her believe that people feel honored to receive change from her. In both stories, irrationality of characters due to their overindulgence of pride leads to a grotesque climax.

The climaxes in both stories are strongly linked to death, usually in a quite grotesque and freakish manner. The death or threat of death brings about a revelation of self-realization. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, the revelation occurs when the grandmother accepts the Misfit as her own son.

"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.

The grandmother noticeably accepts someone as her son while receiving a threat of death from them. She finally shows compassion after all her wrongdoings, but was shot shortly after. The Misfit even stated "She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." It is clear that O'Connor wanted us to become aware of that fact. In Everything That Rises Must Converge, the mother gets a heart attack due the shock of the smack she had previously received.

Stunned, he let her go and she lurched forward again, walking as if one leg were shorter than the other. A tide of darkness seemed to be sweeping her from him. "Mother!" he cried. "Darling, sweetheart, wait!" Crumpling, she fell to the pavement.

It is not entirely clear if she experienced a revelation of self, but it is quite clear that her son, Julian did.

The tide of darkness seemed to sweep him back to her, postponing from moment to moment his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow.

Julian is always cruel to his mother since he convinced himself that he hated her. He finally realizes that he truly loves and cares for her, but sadly it takes his mother's death for him to realize this. Julian experiences a revelation, as does his mother, and the grandmother in the other story.

Good and evil are always put into question in O'Connor's stories and it becomes clear that simply because you think you're good, doesn't necessarily mean that you are. This is a problem O'Connor's characters face, they consider themselves as good, but soon after they realize otherwise. The characters' own pride blinds them to their own reality and makes them egotistic. Eventually when they do realize their shortcoming, it is through the predicament of death. Any reader who truly understands O'Connor's works will analyze themselves on the basis of their level of altruism and egoism. O'Connor's goal seems to be to save her readers from a tragedy and help them to realize themselves without it. To do this, she starts with highly egoistic characters and then transforms them into altruistic personalities. This ultimate transformation, however, takes place in a highly tragic way: through either the death of the characters and/or their dears and nears.

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