The Analysis of A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
A Good Man is Hard to Find is a story written by Flannery O’Connor in 1953, which represents all the power of her literature talent by combining religious symbols and the cruel portrayal of life. Another important detail is that the special meaning was given to the colors, shades, and phrases. The theme of death comes across the entire story, appearing in different shapes throughout the plot.
The story begins with the grandmother, trying to enforce her son to change the destination of the trip they are going to take the next day. To gain this target, she puts out various arguments. She shows her son the newspaper article about the Misfit, the killer that escaped from the prison and was about to go to Florida exactly where they are about to go. It is the first time she shows us her self-identification image, when she tells about her conscience, as one of the defining points of her personality. She claims that her conscience cannot permit her to take children to such a dangerous place. Although this is the first and the last time her instinct tries to save the family; in fact, her words about conscience are just a tool to go and see her relatives in Tennessee, which determines the future of the story.
Her son, Bailey, and his wife ignore these words, and this reaction keeps the same during the story. Unlike the parents, the children appear to be far more talkative. Her grandson, John Wesley, suggests that she can stay at home, instead of going together with them. His sister, June Star, answers that the grandmother won’t stay at home for a million bucks. It is the first time she uses this comparison to express her attitude towards something. The mentioned detail underlines the materialistic values that prevail in the family that has already infected the children and are also a great sin.
As the story continues to develop, and we learn more about the children, we see how unpleasant they are. Although they are both captious and annoying, they appear to represent the grandmother’s real conscience. When we see that she sits in the car with one of them from each side, it can be viewed as the image of an angel and devil sitting on her shoulders. In addition, we can see that the children represent the reflections of their parents: while mother hardly says a word during the whole story, June Star talks all the time, even more than it is possible. The same can be said about Bailey and John Wesley.
Therefore, after the grandmother mentions the Misfit as one of the tools to enforce the rest of the family to agree to her proposal while hiding her selfish targets under the good intentions of a lady, everything turns against her. It is like the first step she makes on the road that has no way out.
The next day grandmother is the first one to be already in the car. Special attention is paid to her look. She says that she has dressed as a lady in case something happens. The detail shows that it is not a common way to get dressed for her and that the motivation is not because of her inner purposes, but because of her wish to make a particular impression on others. Among the details of her costume, we see white violets that are also regarded as symbols of death. During the trip, John Wesley and June Star play a game with the clouds in the sky. They both try to guess what the shapes of the clouds look like, and the two comparisons they make are a car and a cow. Later in the story, we see that they stop in the restaurant and eat meat, the owner of the restaurant meets them lying under the car, and their car gets in the accident and the death comes to them in the car.
The detail of their stop near The Tower, the Red Sammys restaurant, is one of the most interesting in the story. Here we see the power of symbols, represented in the story. The red is considered to be the symbol of death, blood, and warning, but also the symbol of emancipation. In this frame, Red Sammy looks like the prophet, or the last big warning sign, as he talks about the changes in modern society, and that one can trust nobody at that time. To explain his point of view, he puts out the story with two men in Chrysler that came to his restaurant earlier. When the family enters the restaurant, it is described as a dark, long room that appears to look like the scene of the Last Supper. And in fact, that is the last meal of the family. There is a grey monkey near the restaurant that is chained to the tree. The picture is a symbol of the original sin, as a result of which, the whole of humanity is in chains of our grey life and body. When the two children the boy and the girl, symbolizing Adam and Eve, run towards the monkey, it hides in the tree. The Tower is also one of the symbols mentioned in the Bible, as the place that can reach heaven or access to God. The monkey in chains is again the symbol of all mankind, being so close to heaven, but failing to reach it.
When the family comes nearby the plantation, the grandmother remembers the image of the red dust that immediately covers oneself all over. The red dust, in this case, is the symbol of the blood that soon will unexpectedly cover all of them. For sure, it was the grandmother to wave and attract the killer’s attention after they got into the accident. Special attention should be paid to the description of the three men who went out of the (hearse-like) car. The silver stallion on the shirt of one reflects the silver glasses of the other; the red color shirt of one killer, and the ankles of the Misfit; the black hat reflects black trousers. But the leading position is given to the grey color that appears everywhere throughout the story: grey monkey at the Red Sammys, his handkerchief, the grandmother’s cat, the grey hat of one of the murderers, and the Misfits hair, which was also grey.
When the grandmother tries to evoke some emotions of the Misfit, she says that she believes he would not kill a lady and wipes her tears with a clean handkerchief. Using this symbol, the author underlines that grandmother represents herself to be cleaner than the others, purer, and therefore, the one that deserves to live. The words Misfit says about his childhood and that he cannot remember the punishment he received for the crime, continue the theme of the humanity punishment that we all feel we are going through in this life. In the end, the Misfit states that Jesus revived the dead and that he did no harm and meanness. But when grandmother says that he is one of her children the moment of the final understanding of the equality of all human beings, and the moment of truth that comes before the moment of death, he withdraws like from the snake, which is another flashback to the original sin topic.
The special meaning is also given to number three, as there are three children in the family, three days of the trip, three murderers, and the three shots the Misfit fired to kill the grandmother. It can refer to the three days it took Jesus Christ to revive or to Saint Trinity.
The last words the Misfit says about the grandmother after killing her are also a perfect description of humans nature. Despite all the things we did in our entire life, and the values and priorities we had, every human changes in its heart when its life is at stake.
The given story is a perfect example of how inevitable death is in its nature, and in addition, it is a perfect example of how the religious symbols can be implemented in the story to enrich the plot, giving every detail a special meaning to be found.
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