In the story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and the story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" how is Arnold Friend similar to the Misfit?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" are unusual stories that have their turning points brought about by the appearance of a literary grotesque.  That is, something or a character that simultaneously invokes in an audience or reader a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness.  Certainly, in O' Connor's stories, the grotesque is often used to effect the conversion to grace in a character. For, in "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother is converted when she recognizes herself in the Misfit:  "Why you're one of my children," she tells him.  In this case, the grotesque evokes empathy in the grandmother.

On the other hand, in Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" the grotesque does not evoke empathy in the main character, Connie; rather, he causes her great terror.  Nevertheless, Arnold Friend's appearance changes the world for Connie just as the Misfit alters the grandmother's world as both men overpower and control the destinies of the older woman and the teen.  Much like the grandmother's epiphany, Connie has a recognition that she no longer controls her life,

She thought for the first time in her life that it was nothing that was hers, that belonged to her, but just a poiunding, living thing inside this body that wan't really hers either.

Thus, the Misfit and Arnold Friend both take control of the lives of their victims and are responsible for their demise.  In so doing, however, the victims reach a conversion from their selfishness. That is, the grandmother recognizes the Misfit's sins in herself and Connie makes a final act of unselfishness in order to save her family from "any trouble" and Friend tells her, "'re better than them because not a one of them would have done this for you." 

Read the study guide:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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