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Describe the relationship between the grandmother and her son, Bailey.What do you...

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dhenry1991 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 17, 2012 at 9:38 AM via web

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Describe the relationship between the grandmother and her son, Bailey.What do you notice about how they interact? Do they love each other?

the relationship between the grandmother and her son was unresponsive

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 17, 2012 at 10:57 AM (Answer #1)

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The opening lines of O'Connor's story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," places the focus upon the grandmother's selfishness and determination to control her only son, Bailey:

The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida.  She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind.

Showing Bailey the newspaper, ironically, she urges him to not take the children to Florida on vacation because the Misfit is "aloose."  But, Bailey tries to ignore her.  On the morning of their departure, the grandmother in turn ignores the wishes of Bailey not to have an animal in the motel by hiding her cat in the car.  As they drive, she cautions Bailey not to exceed the speed limit as though he is a youth.  And, as they drive, the grandmother decides that she wants to see an old plantation house even though

She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house.

As she nags and gets the children interested, Bailey looks straight ahead.  "His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe" as he says "No" to their demands.  However, when his son John Wesley kicks the back of the seat, Bailey weakens and agrees to turn.

" All right...but get this: this is the only time we're going to stop for anything like this.  This is the one and only time."

Unfortunately, Bailey's weakness costs him and his family their lives as his angry words prove prophetic.  For, they have an accident when the cat springs onto his shoulder.  After they get out of the car, "Bailey's teeth were clattering" with violent emotion.  To make matters worse, the grandmother waves at the car which contains the Misfit, then shouts her recognition, angering Bailey so much that he curses her, causing her to cry.  Finally, he tells everyone to "Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!"  But, it is too late.  He has not asserted himself soon enough.  As he is taken into the woods by Hiram, who pulls him up by the arms as though assisting an old man, Bailey calls to his mother, "I'll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait on me!"

"Bailey Boy!" the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. "I just know you're a good man," she said desperately. "Your're not a bit common!"

Clearly the grandmother thinks first of herself.  Even when Bailey is carried off, although she calls to him and displays some maternal concern and love, her attention is quickly internalized as she is confronted by The Misfit and worries about her own life. Bailey has been more her possession as a son than as a man that she loves and respects because she speaks to him as though he is still a child and she has ignored his wishes throughout the narrative.  In turn, Bailey has tried to ignore her nagging, but is obviously irritated as he sets his jaw.  Apparently, he lets his mother live with his family because she is not wanted by her girls. His unresponsiveness to her indicates his weakness and his desire to have no confontations with her.  While there is a blood connection between Bailey and his mother, real love and respect are not there.

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