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How does O'connor display 'good' in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" in the the misfit and...

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kengholm | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:14 AM via web

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How does O'connor display 'good' in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" in the the misfit and the grandmother?

I am really stuck on this story. It's a great story overall but I am so lost as to what to write about. I am not sure exactly how to word "how good is displayed" in those two characters specifically. A little help from anyone would be much appreciated! Thank you so much!

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

Posted October 25, 2010 at 11:22 AM (Answer #1)

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Flannery O'Connor's fiction must be read with an eye to its mysterious motifs, complex characters and themes that are related to faith and grace. O'Connor once said that "If the Christian faith is in place for the reader, the work will be understandable." So, applying this to "A Good Man is Hard to Find", the theme of this story is that no matter how grotesque a human being is, God still loves that person and God still wants to redeem that person. God's free gift of redemption is known as grace in the Christian belief system, and God offers grace to humans even up to the moment of death. You may be interested to know that Flannery O'Connor refered to the grandmother in this story as a heroine! That is because at the moment of her death, she understands and receives God's grace. That is why she calls the Misfit one of her children. O'Connor believed that all humans were God's children. So, even though the grandmother is an odious woman, she is "good" at the end because she recognizes God's grace and accepts it. The Bible teaches that human beings are sinful and have sin natures. Humans can only be considered "good" if they recognize and repent of their sin. When they do this, they accept the fact that Christ died for their sins on the cross, and God sees them as righteous, not because of anything a human has done, but because of what Christ has done. The Bible says that "there is none righteous, not one". So O'Connor believed that no human is "good" or righteous unless they are redeemed by grace.

The Misfit is not good. The grandmother keeps hoping to appeal to the "good" side of him, but he has no good side. He has rejected grace. He explains to the grandmother why. Apparently, he had a knowledge of religion, but something happened to warp him in his life. He rejected Jesus. He most likely is guilty of killing his father. Perhaps the father was abusive, we don't know for sure, but the Misfit alludes to this. The more the grandmother tells him to pray, the angrier he gets. He doesn't need help from God. He tells the grandmother he is doing OK by himself, but the Bible teaches that man cannot save himself. He must go through Christ, so really, the Misfit is not doing OK by himself with regard to his salvation. He tells the grandmother just before he shoots her that "Jesus thrown everything off balance" by raising the dead and raising from the dead himself. If Jesus really did what he said, then "it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him" - and yet, this is not what the Misfit chooses to do. In her letters, O'Connor said that if you discredit God you might as well be done with him, and that is just what the Misfit does. So, he is not good. He is an evil psychopath. He has the opportunity to choose "good" - when the grandmother tells him to pray, and offers to pray with him, but he rejects this.

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kengholm | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 25, 2010 at 1:38 PM (Answer #2)

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thank you so much! i really appreciate it! now if i had you as my english teacher i think i'd be more inclined to WANT to understand lol. i honestly don't have that much knowledge about religion so this story was a challenge ! much appreciated! :)

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