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Analysis of A Good Man Is Hard To Find Essay



There are few superficial similarities between The Misfit and the Grandmother in Flannery OConnors short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The true similarities between them are really beneath the surface and at once more profound. These similarities, however, are fiercely debated among OConnors critics, as most disagree with her that the Misfit is the good man in her parable (McDermott, J. V., 2010). It is only by considering that OConnor saw the world through a prism of Christian orthodoxy, or peoples relation to Redemption by Christ, that her parable can be seen for what it is; a comparative mystery play (Whitt, M. E., 2010). The mystery then is how two people, whose similarity appears to be that they are both blind to the root cause of their sin, can be each others source of redemption.

The journey to revelation by common people is a primary theme in biblical stories; the underlying intent being to draw in the reader to identify with the protagonists. OConnors choice of cultural setting, though strange to many, impresses us with its routine commonness; we see ourselves in them, just as many New Testament people are readily recognizablethey are humans. At every instance of the trip the Grandmother reveals her failings, but they seem innocuous; white lies, manipulation, and superficiality. At The Tower, OConnor uses misdirection to establish the mystery of the story by having the Grandmother identify Red Sammy as the good man. Red Sammy is the symbol of a conventional good man (Bryant, H. B., 1981), but he lacks the characteristics of a potential prophet. In the car, the Grandmothers manipulation of Bailey, through the children, results in the family being lost in the wilderness. This situation recalls the experiences of Moses, David, and Jesus; the imperative it seems is that being with help precludes shedding fear and having faith.

Stranded, surrounded by woods without recourse, the Grandmother meets The Misfit; on equal terms. The Misfits reputation precedes himwe know he is dangerousand his contrast to the Grandmother paints her benevolent, except we know how selfish she really is (Warren, M., 2006). In fact The Misfit and the Grandmother are revealed to be very similar; a brother and sister in sin (Bandy, S. C., 1996). The two are selfish: The Misfit takes property and life by force, while the Grandmother manipulates the obligations inherent in culture. The Misfit, however, is beyond manipulation, and here his outstanding difference to the grandmother is made clear; he is without fear. On the other hand, with her death imminent, the Grandmothers fear culminates in a flash of peace, and recognition; her redemption reaches out to touch her kin. The Misfit finally sees before his very eyes the dead being raised, and then, like the Grandmother, knows fear.

OConnor turns the Abraham and Isaac story on its head; that the willingness to kill another human being is an act of faith. She seems to ask, what if God had not said Stop. Would Abraham still be a prophet of God if he had killed his son? There is an indication of an answer in The Misfits reaction to the touch of the Grandmother. Of course The Misfit cannot be a prophet and a murderer, but there is nothing to say he cannot, despite himself, help others to redemptionmystery is merely denial of divine compassion, in that case. The good man must be understood from the point of view of Redemption by Christ (Whitt, M. E., 2010); a washing away of sin makes all equal. The Misfit then is the one character in A Good Man Is Hard to Find that desires nothing in the world more than confirmation of Jesus miracle.

At the end of the story The Misfit is absolutely changed by the Grandmothers redemptive touch. The mystery at this point would be how his acts produced that result. The Misfit is able to recognize that his shooting the Grandmother was the catalyst for her awakening: She would have been a good woman, The Misfit said, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life (CS 140). OConnor shows us mystery within mystery, but nothing impenetrableexcept perhaps to the rigidly secular or narrow-minded; all are equal in sin, but those that desire more than life will save more than themselves. The Misfit is the good man because he always desired salvation, You know Daddy said, Its some that can live their whole life without asking about it and its others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters (CS 95). In her final moments the Grandmother saw herself in The Misfit, and was the Good Woman.

Works Cited

Bandy, Stephen C. "One of My Babies': The Misfit and the Grandmother." Literature

Research Center. Gage Cenagage Learning, Winter 1996. Web. 2 May 2011.

Bryant, Hallman B. "READING THE MAP IN 'A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND'. Studies in Short Fiction 18.3 (1981): 301. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 2 May 2011.

McDermott, John V. "Flannery O'Connor's validation of the unreasonable in 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find'." Notes on Contemporary Literature 40.1 (2010). Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 May. 2011.

Warren, Maggie. Finding the Good Man in Flannery OConnors A Good Man is Hard to

Find. Oklahoma City Universitys Undergraduate Research Journal. (2006): 110-

113. Web. 20 April 2011.

Whitt, Margaret Earley. Understanding Flannery OConnor. Understanding Contemporary

American Literature. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1997. 5-12, 38-42. Web. 16 April. 2011.

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