Before we start discussing the peculiarities of the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” written by Flannery OConnor we should mention that the author is a Catholic and that she tries to integrate her religious beliefs in her stores. Overall, it is quite possible to say that OConnors story usually abounds in hidden images and symbols, that can be interpreted in different ways. The peculiar feature of the author’s style is that her character is not static, on the contrary, they constantly evolve, however it would be better to illustrate this point by some examples.
There is a widely held opinion that “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the most brilliant example of the authors works because it represents the best features of OConnors style.
As we have already mentioned before the writers short stories are full of symbols. If we try to analyze the story from this point of view, we should first mention that its very name is to a certain degree symbolic. It represents the typical opinion, which unfortunately becomes more and more dominant in our minds that we should rely only on ourselves, or that we should not put too much trust in people. The author attempts to show the way in which this stereotype can be broken. It is worth mentioning that throughout the story, the grandmother, who is the main character, always tries to bring out good qualities in the people who surround her.
The whole plot of the story creates a powerful image. Overall, it is quite possible for us to say that the thwarted journey is a metaphoric symbol of death, especially if we are speaking about the grandmother, who subconsciously feels that she is going to die. Naturally, it is not explicitly stated, but it becomes very clear if we look at the way the grandmother is dressed for this journey. She wears a dress, decorated with organdy, so that “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady”(OConnor, 12).
In this case, we may speak of such stylistic device as foreshadowing, which means that the author creates a certain atmosphere so that the reader would be able to predict the development of the plot. We may observe another instance of this stylistic device in the scene when the family passes a field “with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it” It only enhances the gloomy atmosphere of the story. Overall, we can conclude that the motif of death is one of the most prevailing in the novel.
Another bright symbol of this story is the old house that the grandmother wants to see. The author deliberately makes the old woman go in the wrong direction and thus leads the main character to her destruction. At first glance, it may seem just a coincidence, but if we take a closer look, we may see that it is a very old symbol.
The point is that there are people who always live in the past as if it were some “paradise lost”, but they are unable to look forward, and this inability makes them extremely vulnerable, they simply come to a dead-end. It can be easily applied to the main character, who is not capable of looking ahead. Her seemingly minor mistake turns to be fatal to her and her family.
Moreover, the author skillfully depicts the weather and nature in order to show the impending tragedy. For instance, the sky is overcast at the very beginning of the story; however, it becomes cloudless in the final scene. It stands to reason that there can be many interpretations of this symbol, and it is a subjective notion, but it is quite possible for us to say that it represents the enlightenment of the old lady. The author implies that the old lady passes away with a clear understanding of Gods grace.
As far as the plot development of the story is concerned, we can say that it logically falls into two parts. It should be mentioned that OConnor shows this division by various means. The tone of the first part (which means before the car accident) can be characterized as light and to some extent humorous.
However, the atmosphere undergoes a sudden change after the accident it becomes obvious that something terrible is about to happen, and the author confirms our expectations the family encounters the escaped convict “Misfit” and his accomplices, who kill in turn each member of the family.
As it has already been mentioned, the characters that the author creates are not static; on the contrary, they are constantly developing. This rule can be applied to every of OConnors stories. Taking into account the fact that the author is a Catholic, we should say that she gives a chance for salvation (or perhaps it would be better to say improvement) to every sinner.
If we try to analyze the development of the main character within this context, we shall see that at the very beginning of the story the grandmother seems to be a very selfish person, who is concerned only with her desires. It should be taken into consideration that the author never mentions her name. There are different reasons for it: first such kind of behavior is typical of old people who always live in the past and therefore forget about other people. But even despite this fact, it seems strange that the grandmother remains nameless throughout the novel: because every Gods creature must have a name.
However, as the story is drawing to its close, the character undergoes a sudden change, especially during her conversation with Misfit. On the one hand, it may seem that the grandmother is just flattering the murderer in order to save her own life, but on the other way, we may say that she tries to awake humane qualities in this criminal. It is interesting that OConnor describes her decease in the following way: “the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky” It seems that she has finally felt Gods (OConnor, 18).
Thus, we may arrive at the conclusion that O’Connor’s story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” describes the spiritual development of a person. The main message that the author conveys is that every sinner has a chance for salvation through God and it is never late to mend one’s ways.
Flannery OConnor. “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Palgrave, 2000.