What conventional social and religious values does the grandmother represent? How are they exposed over the course of the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The unnamed grandmother in the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor shows many elements of conventional middle-class southern values. 

Her first major social value is the importance of the concept of being a "lady." She laments the decline of good manners, and the difficulty of finding people who follow the conventional codes of polite behavior, codes including speech, dress, and gesture (holding doors, etc.). She tends to identify following these external values with moral goodness, even though the two are not actually related. Particularly ironic is her concern for dressing well at all times so that if she dies she will appear a ladylike corpse, a gruesome concern made especially ironic by the end of of the story.

Next, her conventional religious values emphasize outward conformity to religious ritual rather than inward goodness. This is especially brought to the forefront in her conversations with the Misfit, who actually takes Christianity somewhat more seriously than she does, in the sense of dealing with it as a real issue rather than a sort of social ornament.

Finally, she accepts conventional gender roles, on the surface accepting masculine power and superiority, but simultaneously not listening to the advice of the male characters in the story.


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