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What would be a good liberal humanist analysis of "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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peggylost28 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:14 PM via web

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What would be a good liberal humanist analysis of "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:16 AM (Answer #1)

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Liberal humanism is a school of thought that focuses on humans and their values and worth, choosing to reject religious beliefs and ignore them. It is actually quite a considerable challenge to remove Christianity and faith from the analysis of this story completely, as Flannery O'Connor is a writer who is famed for writing about her faith and including religious themes in her work, and it is clear that this is definitely the case with "A Good Man is Hard to Find." However, a liberal humanist analysis of the story would obviously ignore such overt religious themes and instead focus on the way in which the grandmother, at the end of the story, experiences a kind of epiphany whereby she experiences maternal love in a way that surprises the reader, and, we can imagine, herself. It is when she is faced with certain death that she feels a responsibility or a kind of kinship with the man who is about to kill her. Note how this is demonstrated in the following quote:

She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" 

It is this moment of the story that is so significant because it demonstrates the true worth and value of both the grandmother and the Misfit. Up until this stage in the text, both characters have been defined by their faults rather than any good aspects, and the grandmother has shown herself to be selfish and egotistical. This moment, however, challenges such perspectives because it allows the grandmother to rise above her selfishness and to realise the worth she has as a mother who can experience maternal love for anybody. It also depicts the Misfit as a man who actually has a conscience and who experiences guilt over his actions. The way in which the Misfit ends the story by saying that killing is "no real pleasure in life" suggests that this moment has greatly impacted the Misfit himself. A liberal humanist analysis of this story would therefore focus on the way that this moment in the text changes the reader's impression of the characters of both the grandmother and the Misfit, and how their potential as humans is revealed. 

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