1:  This story ends in extreme violence.  However it begins in a very ordinary situation, with an urban family having a leisurely breakfast before they leave for a short holiday trip. ...

1:  This story ends in extreme violence.  However it begins in a very ordinary situation, with an urban family having a leisurely breakfast before they leave for a short holiday trip.  O’Connor takes several pages—during which very little happens—to introduce the family to us.  Throughout this opening section, there are accumulating signs that this is a failed family—the kind psychologists call ‘dysfunctional’.  Find and list some of the specific actions or remarks that show the strange emptiness or ‘deadness’ of this family.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"[A] world of propriety and illusion is laid low by wrath" as critic Ochshorn writes in "'A Good Man Is Hard to Find/A cloak of Grace: Contradictions in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." Beneath the seemingly innocuous details about this family there is, indeed, a hollowness, a "deadness."

"Remarks and actions that depict the strange emptiness or "deadness" of this family" 

The family is not cohesive. They just live together, but they do not consider anyone else's feelings when they talk or interact together.

  • The grandmother does not want to go to Florida as her son and his family do.
  • She tries to convince her son Bailey that the Misfit has escaped from the federal prison and is on his way to Florida. 
  • Bailey ignores all her pleas; he does not look up from his paper.
  • Bailey's wife sits on the couch, feeding the baby. When the grandmother talks, she, too, pays no attention.
  • The grandson, John Wesley, rudely tells his grandmother if she does not want to go, she can just stay home.
  • June Star, the daughter, observes, "She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day" [a television show on which a woman is selected to be waited on and given things for a day]
  • When the grandmother says she may not curl June's hair after this remark, June retorts that her hair is naturally curly anyway.
  • The next morning the grandmother is the first one ready and she sneaks her cat into the car in a basket. "Her son, Bailey, didn't like to arrive at a motel with a cat."
  • As they drive along, the grandmother tries to point out places of interest in Georgia such as Stone Mountain, the granite that is bluish where the highway cuts through a hill, the red clay of the banks along the road, but John Wesley just wants his father to speed through so they do not have to look at it.
  • Whatever the grandmother says, John Wesley comes back with a negative and disrespectful remark.
  • While the grandmother tries to point out scenic sights, the children just read comic books.
  • After the children finished their comic books, they still pay no attention to their grandmother, who finally asks to hold the baby and talks to him.
  • Finally, she tells the children a story after they begin to bicker. It is a disparaging one to blacks as she describes a boy who eats a watermelon because he mistakes Mr. Teagarden's, a man who courted her once, initials--E.A.T. for the word. John Wesley does laugh, but June Star does not.
Sources:

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