May 6, 2015
Society and Class in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” the grandmother and the Misfit become the main focus even though the other characters are involved in the story. Throughout the entire story, The Misfit is portrayed as the symbol of evil because he was in jail; he escaped from jail, and he committed murders. The grandmother believes to be greater than the people that she are around because of the “good” that she portrays. The conventional meaning of good, or possessing or displaying moral virtue, is not the particular good that the grandmother is trying to portray throughout the story. The grandmother believes that good is portrayal of a social class. Throughout the short story, O’Connor portrays “good” from a social class aspect rather than from the conventional aspect, through the grandmother.
As an elderly woman who was born in another generation, the grandmother doesn’t understand why her family members do certain things that they don’t. In the beginning of the story, the grandmother is obsessed with worldly things. She always cares for how people perceive her. She wants to go to Tennessee, so she can be connected with her roots; however her family wants to go to Florida where The Misfit has escaped. The grandmother immediately scolds the family for their decision “…this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it…” (O’Connor 405); however, because of her ways she goes anyway. The grandmother thinks of herself as a lady who should be treated with the utmost respect. Even though they are taking a long car ride the grandmother “…settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window…” (O’Connor 406), this further demonstrates that the grandmother lives a higher standard than the average person and to her family also. You can see the different way that the grandmother and the mother is dressed in the scene, and it portrays them as two different people; however, they come from the same middle class. The mother has on “…slacks and still has her head tied up in a green kerchief…” (O’Connor 406), while the grandmother is in her lady-like attire with “…a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print…(O’Connor 406). The grandmother dresses in this fancy attire because “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at one that she was a lady” (O’Connor 406). Since how the grandmother dress determines if she is a lady or not during the accident, the way the mother dress would not mean anything. This clothing conflict suggests even further that the social class also determines how someone is dressed. If the grandmother and the mother were both killed in the car accident, the grandmother’s death would mean more compared to the death of the mother.
O’Connor also portrays social class by the way that the grandmother criticizes everyone that she is around and how she talks condescending of everyone. The grandmother uses racial slurs when referring to a poor black child that they bypass: “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny” (O’Connor 407). She also mentions how this image would “…wouldn’t that make a good picture now?” (O’Connor 407). This further shows how the grandmother and her family thinks of themselves as a higher class of people, because they have no sympathy for the black child who is obviously poor and on the streets. The child “…didn’t have any britches on, says June Star” (O’Connor 407). The child isn’t wearing any clothes, and the grandmother uses this to say that most black children don’t have the...
Cited: O 'Connor, F. (2014). A Good Man Is Hard to Find. In K. J. Mays, The Norton Introduction to Literature (pp. 404-418). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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