Individualism in Gimpel the Fool and a Good Man Is Hard to Find

Powerful Essays
The Myth of the Sincere or Authentic Individual

In Charles Taylor’s theoretical text, The Ethics of Authenticity, Taylor writes to evaluate the concepts of individualism. He believes that we can, and should, become conscious about what makes us who we are to effectively and sincerely choose which values or qualities to support. Using two short stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor and “Gimpel the Fool” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, alongside Taylor’s text and the application of his concepts, one can examine if the central characters function as true individuals who act for themselves, or act to fulfill a historically desirable niche in human nature. Flannery O’Connor’s 1953 short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” illustrates the story of a husband and wife, along with the grandmother and two children, who embark on a family road trip from Tennessee to Florida. Plot and character both unravel with the path of the family’s travel, revealing the archetypal characteristics of a traditional American family— annoying quirks and behaviors, back seat arguments between siblings; and the elderly, nitpicky, and proper grandmother. Following the greater part of the journey from Tennessee to Florida, the story ends with a final encounter with an escaped convicted murderer, The Misfit. The most prominent and perhaps easily scrutinized character from “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the grandmother. Being the central protagonist in O’Connor’s short story, she unfolds to be manipulative and self-involved, yet a prim and proper elderly woman. Throughout the text, the grandmother is continuously caught up in comparing her polished southern past to her disappointments of the present. She is entangled in her roots, appearing as a harmless chatterbox, aloof and amusing within her own progression. It is easy to forgive her for so much, including her innate racism— pointing at a “cute little pickaninny” from the car window as well as entertaining the children



Cited: Graw-Hill, 2000. 185-95. Print. Taylor, Charles. “Inescapable Horizons.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002 ---, “The Inarticulate Debate.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002 ---, “The Sources of Authenticity.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002 ---. “Three Malaises.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002

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