How does the author of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" describe the cultural and physical landscape of the south?
The cultural landscape is presented primarily through the eyes of the grandmother. Outwardly, she is concerned with her appearance, as noted by the details in her traveling attire:
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. [She] had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet.
All of these efforts in presenting herself well are to ensure that in the case of an accident, people will know at once that she is a "lady." Of course, the irony here is that by behavior and thought, she doesn't present herself as a lady at all.
Her inner character doesn't reflect the same efforts at ladylike behavior. When she catches a glimpse of a little African American boy while driving, she exclaims,
"Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, now?" she asked.
Thus, the cultural landscape is presented as a superficial effort at outer civilities while masking a dark and racist inner reality.
The physical landscape mirrors the grandmother's journey: moments of beautiful calm followed by sharp turns toward ominous danger.
The grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved roads and thirty miles was a day's journey. The dirt road was hilly and there were sudden washes in it and sharp curves on dangerous embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking down on them.
The landscape can change quickly in the South, providing a clear view one moment and swallowing one up the next. The grandmother finds herself in much the same predicament, enjoying a peaceful journey one moment and meeting her death the next. The physical landscape thus mirrors a diverse cultural landscape in the South.
The cultural and physical landscapes provide the needed backdrop for the Misfit and the conflict which ultimately forces the grandmother to face her superficial beliefs in the final scene with the Misfit.
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