What is the grotesque element of "A Good Man is Hard To Find"?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" contains many grotesque elements in which ordinary things are distorted so that they become disgusting. For example, there is a great deal of physical grotesqueness, including the description of Red Sam at the barbecue restaurant: "His khaki trousers reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt." Even the monkey in the tree outside the restaurant is grotesque in nature, as he catches fleas between his teeth and eats them.

The attitude of the main characters is also grotesque. For example, when the grandmother passes a poor African-American child on the road without any pants, she calls him a "pickaninny" and says that the boy would make a good picture. She fails to have any sympathy for the child. The characters seem devoid of moral responsibility. The woman in the restaurant says "that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money." In other words, she feels no responsibility for the United States to take care of Europe, which at the time the story was written was suffering from the after-effects of World War II.

The story ends with grotesque forms of violence, as the family encounters the Misfit who is at large, and he and his partner wind up killing them all. Even after the grandmother hears her family being shot, she keeps telling the Misfit that he is a good man—another example of a grotesque twisting of the truth. In the end, her praise doesn't help her, and she winds up dead, like her family. In the ultimate expression of moral depravity, the Misfit says, ""She would of been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." Even the words "good man" and "good woman" are distorted in this story, as they clearly don't signify that a person is good but instead is grotesquely bad.

mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Physically grotesque is the violence that is in the story; an entire family is brutally murdered.  It graphically describes the begging, pleading grandmother at the end being shot three times in the chest.  Pretty violent.

Morally grotesque is the nature of some of the characters:  The Misfit, Hiram, and Bobby Lee.  Less obvious though is the morally unlikable grandmother character, who whines and complains, sets the family off their beaten path to satisfy her whims, spouts class prejudiceness and racism, and seems only concerned about saving herself.