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Discuss the character of the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery...

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kiairr | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:05 PM via web

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Discuss the character of the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 6, 2012 at 11:53 PM (Answer #1)

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 “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor concentrates on a fully dysfunctional family. No one is able to communicate with the other.  Bailey is consistently annoyed by his mother.  He says nothing to his wife. The wife says nothing to anyone.  The children are somewhat typical, but also undisciplined. 

The grandmother, the main character, is a master manipulator. This is the grandmother’s story. The dialogues and action center on her character.  Obviously, the grandmother has usually gotten her way, probably because she does not hear the word “no.” She is a lady of the south who has been pampered in her earlier life.  

Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her necklace 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.

Being considered a lady is important to the grandmother. Dressing respectably, treating others with respect, and using manners to the grandmother makes a woman a lady.  This has served her well in her life; she even tries the “lady” idea with the Misfit. She has been raised with racist ideas.  Her worst trait is her selfishness.

The grandmother tries to get her way with Bailey. No one else wants to visit Tennessee.  For the children, this would not be a fun vacation.  That is not what the grandmother cares about. It is not what she wants.  She does not want to go to Florida.  Her choice is to visit her relatives in Tennessee. 

The grandmother’s ploy is to subtly try to change her son’s mind.  She uses the reports of the criminal on the loose and tries to give Bailey a guilt trip about his children. Unfortunately, her decision to go against Bailey’s wishes about her cat causes the accident and the eventual death of all of the family. 

Sometimes it appears that the grandmother is senile.  It is ridiculous to try to hide the cat.  Bailey is going to have a fit when he finds it. She forgets the place that she wants to visit which leads the family toward the accident. Her biggest mistake is telling The Misfit that she recognizes him.  This signs the fate of the family.

The grandmother’s encounter with The Misfit does not go well.  The first thing she says to him is “You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” Even as the family is taken to the woods and shot and killed, her concern is not for the family but for her own well-being. Again, she tries to manipulate The Misfit.  She tries to make him like her and then feel sorry for her. 

Finally, when she tries to work the religious appeal, the reader realizes that the grandmother is a spiritual person herself.  Whatever faith she has is overcome by the shock of what is happening to her. That is apparent when she obviously doubts Jesus at which point the contrast between her shallow faith and The Misfit's deeper troubled thinking about Jesus is most apparent.

Her thoughts run to how could God let this happen to her. When she cries out to Jesus, it almost seems like a curse rather than a prayer. When she reaches out to mother The Misfit, it is then that he can no longer stand her presence.  He immediately shoots and kills her. 

The Misfit shoots her three times, but her transcendence to grace is underscored by the fact that she died  ‘with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.’

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