Can you please summarize Martha Stephens critical (From the question of flannery O'conner)the short story is: "A Good Man is Hard to Find by O'Connor

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Are you referring to the essay written by critic Martha Stephens regarding Flannery O'Connor? If so, you can read this right here on eNotes.

To summarize, Stephens divides the story into two parts. The first part, up until the family takes the detour to investigate the grandmother's childhood home, Stephens views as comical. She says that O'Connor initially presents a comic side of the family but as the short story progresses, it becomes a tragic comedy. The grandmother's values are both comical and tragic, especially as they foreshadow what is to become of the family at the hands of the Misfit and all because the family followed the wishes of the grandmother.

Stephens discusses the characters and the plot, giving specific attention to the grandmother's character and how it is the focal point of the action. She believes that the main point of the story takes place in the final conversations between the grandmother and the Misfit and that this section deserves the most careful attention if one is to understand this short story. She also discusses the fact that this was one of O'Connor's favorite stories and explains O'Connor's personal view of this particular short story - "in this story you should be on the lookout for such things as the action of grace in the Grandmother's soul, and not for the dead bodies."

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Martha Stephens notes the comic characteristics of the first part of the story. (If you listen to Flannery O'Connor read the story aloud when she first wrote it, you will note that the audience receives it as a comedy, laughing over the foibles of a typical 1950s southern American family going a summer vacation by car. Most don't understand the foreshadowing about the Misfit, and a sudden stunned silence falls as the tone suddenly shifts to darkness.)

Stephens doesn't discuss this tape of O'Connor reading the story, but the tape nevertheless illustrates Stephens's contention about the story having two distinct parts.

More importantly, Stephens is of the opinion that the ending part of the story fails. She writes:

the failure of the final scene— and hence of the story— seems to result from a tonal shift that occurs midway through the story and finally runs out of control.

Rather than accept O'Connor's valuation that the story is about moments of grace more than moments of death, Stephens thinks O'Connor fails in her attempts to portray grace, instead leaving the reader with the idea that life is meaningless and absurd. Stephens understands what O'Connor is trying to do, but believes she fails at it.

Read the study guide:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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