Flannery O'Connor's short story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find has many elements of a southern gothic work. Images of ancient castles with sliding panels create suspicious themes and settings that lead the readers into the dark and gloomy world of the southern United States. With all of the violence, horror, and dismal surroundings presented in O'Connor's stories there is too a moral message given. Later gothic work did not always explain horror like this, holding little moral value to contrast their grotesque images (notes, November 1). O'Connor's stories do include a strong moral element, frequently in the form of religious explanations. The characters within A Good Man is Hard to Find are usually ignorant and self-satisfying people, who come across "the grotesque" and are shocked into self-realization, no longer self-satisfied. These grotesque elements are usually the divine in disguise forcing the characters into introspection. In a letter Flannery O'Connor wrote she stated: "You have found Christ when you are concerned with other people's suffering and not your own." In this quotation we can see the moral message O'Connor was attempting to convey in her stories, and through further analysis of the work this fact can be more clearly illustrated.
In the first story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, O'Connor's moral message is clearly presented. The grandmother protagonist in the story is very self-serving. She demands constant attention (although rarely getting it) and stubborn in the fact that her wishes must be carried out. She only wants to go to Tennessee to see old connections (O'Connor, pg. 1). The grandmother cannot move away from past and is at the same time confused by accuracy of past events. On the trip a road stop seems very suggestive of a hellish place: barbecue fires, Red Sammy, etc (O'Connor, pg. 6). The grandmother's lack of character judging is pointed out in this scene. She believes that Red Sammy is a good man because he relates to her old fashioned values (she thinks). Sammy is surprised at this and exclaims, "Yes'm, I suppose so," his unsureness makes the reader question Sammy's character. What is more telling is what the waitress says while bringing the food: "It isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust
I don't count nobody out on that, not nobody (O'Connor, pg. 8)." While speaking this last line the waitress looks directly at Sammy, making him angry/uncomfortable. If Sammy is not a good man is he evil? Could he represent Satan, Red Sammy is a fitting parallel name. Sammy then states that "a good man is hard to find." Could this be forewarning to the grandmother's confused values of what is right or wrong (good or bad)? Soon the family is on their way again but the grandmother forces her way by using the children. Getting the kids exited enough to annoy their father so much that he breaks down and changes the route and seeks out the old gothic house. We soon learn that the grandmother has made a geographical mistake thinking Georgia for Tennessee. Her ignorance starts a chain of events which will result in all their deaths: Brining the cat along even though she knew it wold not be allowed, forcing her will even when unsure if it was right (O'Connor, 2, 11). The grandmother's uncertainty of geography could be read as mirroring her spiritual uncertainty. After the car crashes we see that the grandmother is self-serving. She uses gender roles ("you wouldn't shoot a woman") and religious images to try and save herself and to make the Misfit to look well upon her (O'Connor, 14-19). This plea seems very self-serving. Why not ask- "you wouldn't shoot a family, would you?" The argument of religion as a reason to be good is rejected by the Misfit (O'Connor, 21). By dismissing Christ's history the Misfit also rejects the grandmother's self-serving values. When death is imminent the grandmother has a revelation and is prepared to embrace the Misfit...
Bibliography: 1. O 'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1976
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