Posted: September 3rd, 2013
A good man is hard to find analysis
This story is about a family that lives with their grandmother. They set out on a vacation to Florida. She tries to persuade her son Bailey, not to go there because there is a misfit on lose in Florida. Regardless of the situation, Bailey still heads to there. Grandmother believes she is a woman and she even dresses like one. She also carries her cat in a basket. After several miles, they stop at a diner to eat. The grandmother and dimmer owner engage in a conversation about trust. They comment on how the world has changed negatively. As the journey continues, grandmother talks about a house, which has amazing features. The children insist to go and see it and Bailey reluctantly drives them there. Grandmother forgets it was not in Florida but in Tennessee. As she reacts to her mistake, the cat is provoked and it jumps out. Bailey is shocked by the cat’s appearance and gets confused. The car crashes and grandmother decides to hold back the truth. Suddenly, misfit and two other criminals appear. They take the family into the woods and murder them. Grandmother is the last to be shot. She tries to engage misfit in a persuasive conversation not to kill her. This is when she refers to him as one of her children. This phrase has different approaches. It has different interpretation, according to the context of the story (O’ Conner, 23).
When grandmother called misfit, “one of my own children,” (Stephens, p.1263) she intends to plead for her life. The misfit had killed the rest of the family and grandmother was left. She was trying to be friendly to the misfit and show her she should not kill a woman. She believed in her conscious and talked about religious matters to the murderers. She decided to do this because the misfit had told her, he once believed in Jesus. Grandmother thought the misfit would be conscious enough not to kill her. The misfit never listened to grandmother’s plea and she did not hesitate to kill her. From the beginning of the story, grandmother has depicted a proud character. She says she is a woman but tells Bailey’s wife her face resembles a cabbage. She believes she is a lady who is morally upright. All she does is to judge others and be self-centered. For example, she tells Bailey, “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did” (Whitt, p. 162). She thought she new everything and she is always right. This old woman has different characters of parenthood. Immediately she noticed she was wrong about the house’s location, she did not mention it. A responsible parent will speak out immediately for the safety of her family. It was also mean to hide a cat because it made Bailey crash the vehicle. Every parent would first plead for the lives of her children and grandchildren. This grandmother hardly mentions anything about this. The whole conversation with the misfit is only about sparing his life because she is a woman (O’ Conner, p. 98).
The phrase also means the grandmother had reformed. She realized her mistakes and considered everyone equal. She always viewed herself as a superior being but she is now remorseful about her actions. This is why he refers to the misfit as one of his children. The misfit is a criminal who has escaped prison and murdered grandmother’s family. Nevertheless, grandmother still calls him his son. The misfit makes fun of her and says, “She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (Stephens, p. 1269). The misfit said this because he had observed the grandmother. He realized that the woman sounded very kind since there was a threat to her life. To him, it meant that for the grandmother to be always good there must be an influencing factor. The most probable should be a life threatening one. This phrase would also suggest sarcasm from the misfit. He may have thought the grandmother was pretending to be kind for her life to be spared. Therefore, someone should always threaten her life so that she will remain kind. This kind of a thought is unrealistic hence, sarcasm. The old woman lost her life mainly because the misfit considered her a hypocrite. He could not accept that the grandmother saw him as his son, yet she did not utter even a word in defense of her family. The misfit realized she was not being realistic (Witt, 169).
It sounds metaphorical when grandmother calls the misfit one of his children. The misfit claimed he has been sentenced for a crime he did not remember committing. He said that a psychiatrist told him he had murdered his father. This would mean that he was not in his right state of mind and he should not be blamed for it. He seemed to have a very decent life before his sentence so he was a good man. The phrase from the grandmother was a message of hope to the misfit. Although he was leading a very reckless life, there was a chance for him to reform and fit in the society like every other child or adult. It showed the grandmother had a maternal being in herself, despite her awkward behavior ( O’Conner, 115).
This story has successfully communicated to the target audience and the themes are clear. O’Connor intended to address themes like pride, hypocrisy and crime among others. He uses an old woman as the main character to address pride and hypocrisy. The woman is in self-denial and sees herself superior. She does not want to be seen as an old woman. That is why she wears a flowery dress and a hat. Her character dominates almost the whole of the story because she feels she is special. O’ Connor has used this story to condemn such people in the society. Such people result in being humbled by circumstances. Just like the grandmother, she realized her weaknesses on the verge of dying. She did not have a chance of proving to the world that she has changed positively. The misfit’s case also depicts consequences of injustice. If it was true he was sentenced wrongly, he relieves his bitterness to innocent souls. He kills a whole family including two innocent babies. He feels he was treated unfairly but he is avenging on the wrong people (Whitt, 258) .
O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969. Print.
Stephens, Martha. The Question of Flannery O’Connor. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973. Print
Whitt, Margaret Earley. Understanding Flannery O’ Conner. Carolina: University of Southern Carolina press.1997. Print.
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