A Death Wish
In A Good Man Is Hard To Find Flannery OConnor reveals the story of a typical southern family taking a trip to Florida during their summer vacation. They are consistently challenged by the manipulative grandmother, whose words and actions ultimately lead to the familys demise. The story is filled with surprises, hinted by signs that forebode a grotesque ending. To connect all the plots, OConnor uses a variety of literary elements such as foreshadowing and imagery to portray a death theme throughout.
On numerous occasions, Flannery OConnor exhibits the use of foreshadowing in her tale. As soon as the story starts, there are noticeable signs, which if followed carefully can help predict the familys fate. At the beginning of the story, the reader learns about the family taking a trip to Florida which the grandmother opposes because she would rather go to Tennessee (943). The grandmother says, Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is a loose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida (943). Here OConnor hints that the family may come in contact with the criminal The Misfit because they seem to have a mutual destination. The author also briefly mentions the criminals previous crimes as, What it says he did to these people (943). This gives readers a clue that what happened to those people may also happen to the family as well. Another example of foreshadowing is when the family is confronted by The Misfit, he says, but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadnt reckernized me. (950). Here The Misfit indicates that he is going to kill the family because they have seen him and verified his identity. At this point OConnor is setting up the readers for the twist in the story. In addition to foreshadowing, OConnor also uses imagery to draw details for the readers which hint upcoming events.
Flannery OConnors use of strong imagery is the other literary element that helps the readers to interpret the unusual events in the story. The narrator tells how the grandmother is nicely dressed, and how it relates to death. OConnor describes her appearance:
The grandmother had on 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. Her collars and cuffs were organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline, she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (944)
The grandmothers dress symbolizes a preparation for her grave. Before burial, people are usually dressed nice, just like the grandmother was in her Sunday best. Not knowingly, the grandmother also predicts her own death when she mentions about an accident occurring on the highway. One can infer from this passage that the grandmother thinks that she is ready for death, but in the end when The Misfit confronts her, she is the least willing to die. Another display of imagery that the author exhibits is when the family is traveling along the highway. They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island, (944). The five or six graves could relate to the family: three adults, two kids and an infant. Upon asking about the plantation, the grandmother tells the children that it is Gone with the Wind (945). Her response could relate to the ending as well, foreshadowing their lives would be gone in an instance. OConnors use of imagery helps readers visualize the whole scene in their minds and feel the gloomy atmosphere.
OConnor also utilizes imagery to create a dark and hazy atmosphere to illustrate a death theme. The town near where The Misfit kills the family is called Toomsboro (947). The name of the town itself is a buildup to the word tomb, which indicates death. In addition, after the accident, while sitting in a ditch, a black hearse-like automobile approaches the family (949). This hearse, a conveyance for the coffin, also characterizes a death theme. The scene where the ending takes place is surrounded by woods. . . . there were more woods, tall and dark and deep (949). After the Misfits men kill the rest of the family in the woods, the author provides the readers with one last sign that ensure the ultimate fate of the grandmother (951). When the grandmother offers The Misfit all her money, he replies, Lady, there never was a body that gave the undertaker a tip (953). This provides the final hint as the Misfit refers to himself as the undertaker about to take her life.
Flannery OConnors, A Good Man Is Hard To Find is a tale filled with literary elements at every point that blend in perfectly to create a bizarre, but fascinating tale, which with every re-read is subjected to summon a new detail. Filled with suspense, OConnors strong and obscure imagery foretells the story, but not enough to ruin the surprise ending.
OConnor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The Writers Presence: A Pool of Readings. Eds. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. 5th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Matrins, 2009. 942-954. Print.