Homework Help

Compare and contrast the misfit and grandmother. Do they come to seem more different or...

user profile pic

sara212 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 8, 2010 at 3:24 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Compare and contrast the misfit and grandmother. Do they come to seem more different or more alike over the course of the story? IN what ways?

 

3 Answers | Add Yours

Top Answer

user profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:55 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

When the Misfit and his gang come upon the grandmother and her family after the car accident, the reader sees almost immediately that the Misfit is older than the other men, so like the grandmother, he is the oldest one in the group:

He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look.

At this point, the grandmother believes he is someone she knows, that perhaps she "had known him all her life." This reference points out that they do seem to have some similarities and perhaps the Misfit in some ways represents what the grandmother could have been had she not had her faith, which trumped her negative nature and kept her from turning into something totally evil, like the Misfit.

Both the grandmother and the Misfit are controlling individuals. The grandmother's controlling nature has turned her into an odious and annoying woman, but not a criminal because her religion has kept things in check. The Misfit's controlling nature has turned him into a criminal because he does not have any saving faith in his life. In fact, he has turned against religion, as he tells the grandmother at the end of the story. He has totally gone over to the dark side and this is why he can kill a family in cold blood.

I think that as the Misfit and grandmother's personalities are revealed, the reader sees how unlike they are. The Misfit seems to grow more and more evil the more the grandmother talks and forces him to look inside of his soul and see the evil man that he has become. In contrast, the more the grandmother talks, and as her family is killed, one by one, even the children, the closer she relies on her faith. She asks the Misfit if he prays, and then she begins to pray, out loud, as she realizes he is killing her family and is going to kill her. The more she prays and the closer she comes to relying on her faith, the angrier the Misfit gets and we see how anti-faith he is. The grandmother keeps trying to appeal to the Misfit's sense of right and wrong, but he is a sociopath and does not have any. When he kills the grandmother, he notes that she could have been an OK woman if she had not talked too much, but this is because what she talked about was Jesus. In the end, he tells his sidekick, Bobby Lee,

"Shut up, Bobby Lee." The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure in life."

Faith is an important part in all of Flannery O'Connor's short stories and they really cannot be interpreted apart from this.

user profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 9, 2010 at 5:48 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 2 like
In the story the grandmother is self-centered and thoughtless of others. She is racist, but in light of all this, she still considers herself a lady. The Misfit is a criminal with a tragic upbringing that has left him disillusioned especially in terms of seeing goodness in the world. As the grandmother finds herself interested in only in herself, the Misfit is the same way. The grandmother realizes that her family members are being murdered one by one, so she tries to manipulate the Misfit with compliments in order to save herself. Twisted and destructive, he is not to be dissuaded, consistent in his murderous intent. However, it is at this last moment that the old woman changes. She has a spiritual awakening, and she sees the Misfit not as an outsider, but as one of God's flock, seeing him as if he were her own son. She is redeemed in this, which changes her. The Misfit suffers from no change of heart, no saving vision. He proceeds to shoot the woman three times in the chest, killing her.
user profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 9, 2010 at 6:03 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 2 like

Since "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is a gothic comedy, the grandmother fits the archetypal Alazon role: a character who thinks she's better than she really is.  The Misfit is a stock grotesque: he's a means to show the grandmother how much of a hypocrite she really is.

O'Connor uses the Misfit to cast off the grandmother's mindset of denying her transcendence.  The grandmother's idealist arguments "you’re a good boy" and "you wouldn’t shoot a lady" are empty attempts to verify a truth for the situation that she wants to be affirmed in him, but that which she knows to be false.  She has had a history of validating herself though the eyes of others, and O'Connor uses the Misfit's grotesqueness as a means of showing her inauthenticity.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes