A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

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Regarding "A Good Man is Hard to Find," is the author successful in communicating her intended message?

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In her many Southern Gothic stories, Flannery O'Connor satirizes contemporary man who is the grotesque since his efforts are toward escaping his own salvation.  This rejection of God is evidenced in the character of the Misfit, certainly, but it is also in the heart of the grandmother. Thus, O'Connor's theme of perversity, as Mark Edelstein calls it, is at the heart of her short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

As the main character, the Grandmother exhibits several "perverse" behaviors, which O'Connor satirizes:

  • She is selfish, bringing her cat in spite of her son's objection; in addition, she demands to visit a plantation that she mistakenly thinks is on their way.
  • She is pretentious as she dresses up in case her family has an accident; she scolds her grandson for derogating his native state; she calls a black child "a little pickaninny" and is patronizing as she talks of the "Negro children" being deprived.
  • She is disapproving of her daughter-in-law and dotes on her son Bailey.

The Misfit also exhibits "perversity":

  • He tells the Grandmother how "Jesus thrown everything off balance."
  • He explains how his punishment did not fit his crime. For this reason he calls himself "The Misfit"

"...because I can't make what all i done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment."

But, with the Grandmother's recognition that the Misfit is "one of my babies! You're one of my own children!"  he acts, ironically as an agent of grace for the Grandmother and she is redeemed in her moment of grace. Indeed, O'Connor is then successful in her purpose of displaying perversity and violence as catalysts for grace in a world out of balance where man is grotesque and comedy is dark.


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