Can you please summarize Stephen Bandy's Criticism "One of My Babies" for O'Conner's story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?
Bandy argues that what Flannery O'Connor says about "A Good Man is Hard to Find" being a religious story about the redemption of the Grandmother in a moment of grace before the Misfit kills her is wrong. It might be O'Connor's belief about the story, but, he argues, the weight of the story does not show this to be true.
He contends that O'Connor depicts the Grandmother throughout as a selfish and manipulative person. He says that when she reaches out and touches the Misfit and calls him "one of her babies," she does not really mean it. She is simply being manipulative. It is another ploy to save her own life—one that does not work.
Bandy writes the following:
O'Connor did not exactly defend the grandmother's selfish behavior; but the writer fatuously described this final gesture as the action of grace in the Grandmother's soul.
While Bandy does make some good points, he is basing his argument in part on O'Connor not seeing the Grandmother as selfish and manipulative, but O'Connor's point is that even the worst people can have moments of grace—because grace comes from God, not the person.
Bandy also writes the following:
Declaring to The Misfit that he is one of her babies, she sets out to conquer him. Perhaps she hopes that this ultimate flattery will melt his heart, and he will collapse in her comforting motherly embrace.
That is one way to read the story, but that interpretation hinges on ignoring the signs of terror and disorientation the Grandmother is experiencing at this moment before she dies. However, it is up to the reader to decide who to agree with. Looking at Bandy is a useful exercise in understanding that what an author has to say about a text is not the final word on it. O'Connor may have wanted to convey that the Grandmother died in a state of grace; however, O'Connor may have failed to convey that strongly enough in the story as it stands.
Stephen Bandy basically disagrees with Flannery O'Connor's explanation of her own short story. He agrees with D. H. Lawrence who says we should "trust the art but not the artist." He believes that in spite of what O'Connor says about the message of Christian grace, there IS no redeeming grace for any of the characters in this short story. He says that while the story's themes center on the Christian view of faith, death and salvation, the story's message is pessimistic and "subversive" to the message of Christianity. He says the story speaks for itself and that the author should not speak for the story.
Flannery O'Connor has remarked that she was always surprised when people told her the grandmother in the story was evil. It was her intent to show that the grandmother was able to exhibit grace at the end of the story. Most people that read the story miss this.
The "art" of this story is the fact that it is so deep that it inspires lots of great discussions.