In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," Flannery O'Connor uses short, simple sentences in order to effect which literary device?      

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

O'Connor's use of short and simple sentences serves to heighten suspense and enhance the Gothic elements of the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find." This kind of syntax allows the reader to access the important details of the story easily, moving the story forward and maintaining pace without complication. Helpfully, the sentences that describe the family members' reactions to their terrifying experience are written in a style similar to the dialogue of the story and the descriptions of the behavior of the Misfit and his henchmen. This technique allows the tension of the action to "speak for itself," so the reader doesn't need to slow down and be distracted by longer sentences that might require more careful and repeated reading. Gothic elements and suspense benefit from clear and concise writing that allows the story itself to be the focus, rather than the language.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

O'Connor employs repetitive syntax, keeping some sentences quite short, in order to impact tone and mood and even help to develop characterization.  Syntax refers to the arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence, and authors can manipulate syntax for a number of reasons.  Short, clipped sentences like some of the ones O'Connor uses tend to affect the tone of the story, making it sound somewhat wry and ironic (which is appropriate given the irony of the family's vacation ending in their complete annihilation). 

Short sentences can also tend to sound somewhat petulant, also appropriate given that the grandmother also possesses this quality.  The first line of the story, "The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida," makes her sound rather childish in this way: there is no explanation or elaboration, just a simple statement of her emotional response.  Further, when the grandmother says, "'People did right then,'" to describe the past, the shortness and simplicity of the sentence emphasizes her belief that the past was a simpler time.  It's as though this is all there is to say about the past, and that this "fact" alone completely explains all of the grandmother's dissatisfaction with the present.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial