How can the angel in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" be compared and contrasted?
Marquez's fictional landscape is truly one that defies traditional modes, but then O'Connor transforms her narrative in a rather startingly manner, as well. Contributing to the tone and themes of their two stories are the characters, the "angel" and the Misfit, both of whom are inadvertent messengers from God, although the Misfit is certainly an unwitting one.
- Although the angel is "disappointingly ordinary and human," he differs greatly in appearance from a man such as the Misfit, who is a more typical man with spectacles and "a long creased face."
- They both make the supernatural seem ordinary, but in different ways. With the old man with enormous wings, it is the reactions of the people to him that create the ordinariness of his spirituality as they do not have it within them to accept spiritual enlightenment. Because he is a "winged humanoid" the people at first elevate him to an spiritual level of an angel; however, their reactions to him reduce the people to their humanness as, for example, Elisenda is relieved that
he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea
while the Misfit acts as an agent of grace, effecting the salvation of the grandmother, who, after being shot by the Misfit,
lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her...and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.
- Both the angel and the Misfit surprisingly appear in the lives of others. The angel is silent except for some incantations; he arrives unexplained. Likewise, after the grandmother's cat causes the automobile accident, the family encounters the Misfit and his companions. There are no explanations for either of them.
- Something about both the old man with enormous wings and the Misfit is greater that the estimations of them. For example, while he talks with the grandmother, the Misfit explains that "Jesus thrown everything off balance." Later,he becomes the agent of salvation for the mother. In Marquez's story, the angel defies definition, and his existence points to the people's failed attempts to reduce the old angel to a mere aberration of nature, but he remains above their limitations, causing their inadequacies to become more pronounced by contrast with him. For instance, the priest rejects him because he did not understand the language of the Church, Latin. And, despite his physical failings, the angel regenerates his feathers and is able to finally fly away, leaving Elisenda in her ignorance.
Both of these figures seem to have a number of similarities, particularly focusing on the way that both are "misfits" in the society that they find themselves in, though for different reasons. The angel is clearly a "misfit" because of his supernatural appearance combined with the fact that so much about him suggests he is not angelic. This paradox turns him into something of an eventual annoyance to Pelayo and Elisenda as interest in him dries up, so much so that when he finally recovers the use of his wings and flies away Elisenda does nothing to try and prevent him:
She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.
The angel is therefore at once a misfit who is cruelly exploited by Elisenda and Pelayo for their own benefit, but also he is a figure who leaves without either of them caring. Having used this figure to enrich themselves, both Elisenda and Pelayo view him as a mere "annoyance," and therefore have no further use for him.
The Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is another example of a misfit from society, as his name suggests. He clearly shows how he does not fit into society through his anti-social acts and his criminal activity. However, clearly he is different from the angel as O'Connor allows the reader to hear his words and his character is developed, whereas the character of the angel remains something of a mystery. In particular, the story traces the change of the attitudes and perspectives of the Misfit, as he moves from taking pleasure in violence and murder to saying at the end that "It's no real pleasure in life." The Misfit's relations with those around him is very different. The angel is exploited by others, whereas the Misfit is an active presence who kills the grandmother and her family. Arguably, the reader may feel more sympathy for the Misfit because of the way that his character is fully developed whereas the character of the angel remains a mystery throughout.