illustrated portrait of American author Flannery O'Connor

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I need help comparing the grandmother from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and Julian's mother from "Everything That Rises Must Converge."

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Although Julian's mother is racist—believing that African Americans ought to succeed, but only on "their side of the fence"—she is not vicious. She is condescending and wrong, certainly, but she does not have the intention to wound or to harm. Compared to her son, who absolutely is vicious and does want to make his mother suffer (and who is nice to African Americans only to upset her) she is a relative innocent, and she is compared to a child for this reason. At one point, the narrator says that "Her feet in little pumps dangled like a child's and did not quite reach the floor" of the bus. She also has a particular affinity for children, especially black children, and this seems to demonstrate some level of goodness (her behavior toward the black child on the bus is, again, condescending and misguided, but it is well-intentioned and not malicious).

The grandmother is also described as a child at the end of her story. She has had a realization, recognizing how she and The Misfit are actually more similar than they are different—she even refers to him as one of her own children—when he shoots her. The narrator says that she "half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky." She has been, again, a problematic character: she's racist and elitist and not altogether honest. However, in the end, she does seem to achieve an innocence, like Julian's mother.

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Both women are very much a product of their respective generations. The grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is an elderly, cantankerous woman who is stunned at the way her children and grandchildren behave. The children are disrespectful and do not appreciate anything the grandmother has to offer. On many occasions the woman is treated as noisy furniture. The grandmother is not the picture of innocence, however. She attempts to push her beliefs and ideas on others regardless of their interest. The grandmother also has an obsessive bent, particularly when it comes to other people that are different. The grandmother’s worst nightmare becomes real when she meets one of those people in the form of “The Misfit.” Even in the face of danger the grandmother does not waver.

Julian's mother in "Everything That Rises Must Converge" is similar in the following ways. The mother is a proper woman who feels she must always be dressed to perfection. However, the times of her youth make her feel guilty about spending any money on anything that is not a dire necessity. Like the grandmother and her son, Julian’s mother argues with young Julian and constantly wonders where she went wrong in his upbringing. The son does things to shock his mother and like the grandmother, the woman takes the bait.

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