An In-depth Character Analysis in “A good man is hard to find” Flannery O’Connor

A good man is hard to find” Flannery O’Connor
4 mn read

Short stories are insightful and thought-provoking, making us wonder their peculiarity and prudent background. This research paper focuses on the analysis of the character ‘grandmother’ in one of the recognizable short stories “A good man is hard to find” by Flannery O’Connor. The writer of this story uses very distinct and simple words with the intention that the readers should focus more on the conversations taking place between the characters rather than the storytelling. Communication is an essential part of a human’s day-to-day life. The conundrums that we face each day are majorly solved or exaggerated by the type of conversation we decide to choose. The character analysis in this research paper will focally consider the conversation taking place between the protagonist, which is the grandmother, her family and a serial killer with the help of various sources available in the literature.

In Conner’s short story “A good man is hard to find”, his main character, the grandmother, possesses the same qualities as his other protagonists. The grandmother’s character in the short story is quite interesting. From the kind of conversation she has with her son, wife and grandchildren, it can be noted that she is a stubborn, manipulative, but realistic person at the same time. From the beginning of the story, she demonstrates an apostle’s behavior when she is trying to convince his family members to visit the place of her choice rather than theirs. The author portrays her as a person with orthodox thinking and a dandy nature. Her dialogues are indicating of the fact that she thinks of herself as ladylike, donning fashionable clothes no matter what situation there is and considers herself superior to everyone in every aspect. Her words are completely deceitful as when she speaks, her words and facial expressions characterize her as a very good person, while her actions totally deny these claims. By the end of the story, her selfish, egocentric and oblivion nature eventually leads to the death of herself and her entire family.

According to (Le Thi Bich Thua) in his article explains, one of the ways to examine a character in a story or even another person in real-time is politeness analysis (Le Thi Bich Thua). It does not only help us in determining the kind of character through the conversational schema but also helps in judging other human beings practically. If we examine the character of the grandmother in the perspective of the politeness analysis, it then falls under a schematic and authoritative category. Her charlatanry behavior was most evident when she corrects her grandson’s comment on the countryside by saying, “People are certainly not nice like they used to be” and also when she sees a Negro passing by the car she commented, “Oh look at the cute pickaninny!” In Le’s perspective, the character development of the grandmother can be seen by the change in her conversational paradigm. In the beginning, she tries to convince her family in a more direct, exploiting and deceitful manner whereas at the end of the story when her own life was in danger from the Misfit, she suddenly changes her paradigm of conversation and becomes politer and indirect.

F., Bethea Arthur, in her research journal, brings the concept of faith, belief and Jesus into the narrative. She is of the view that the grandmother depicts the shadow of an angel while the Misfit is the depiction of Satan. From time and time, the Misfit becomes uncomfortable in the presence of the children and the mention of God and prayer by the grandmother. All these are indications that he is the devil in the story. She also states that the character of the grandmother is selfish because at the beginning of the story she did not want her family to visit Florida as there was a serial killer at loose only to manipulate his son and fulfil her own desires. A similar approach is taken by (Harris) as he illustrates that in the beginning of the story the grandmother is shown as self-infatuated, hypocritical, talkative, and a fashionable person with a sense of superiority. But at the end of the story, as she stands in front of her death, she realizes how she has been wrong this whole time about herself and realizes God’s grace and tries to transfer it to the Misfit as well. But it was only her that accepted it and decided to meet her end fate. The author says that “through these two characters, O’Connor shows that grace and redemption are attainable, even in a Christ-haunted, off-balance world”.

According to (Bandyo), the judgment of the grandmother’s character all depends upon the reader’s perspective. Such as at the end of the story, when she tries to put her hand on Misfit’s shoulder, the author thinks it is a very selfless act, as quoted by him “What is arguable is the meaning to the Grandmother’s final words to the Misfit, as well as her “gesture,” which seemed equally important to O’Connor. One’s interpretation depends on one’s opinion of the Grandmother” (Bandy, 3). He argues that her spirituality and egocentricity were the causes behind the murder of her family. Even though she knew that a serial killer was at loose and she had forgotten the exact route, she still manipulated her son to drive to the old mansion by saying that ‘It would be educational for the children. (Hani) In one of his articles analyzes this short story from a completely different perspective. He assesses the social problems demonstrated by the author in the context of the grandmother and her family, with the help of sociological and psychological approaches. He evaluates that there is a lack of communication and a generation gap between the oldest member of the family and the other family members. There is also a sense of chaos and disorganization in the family with a self-centred grandmother, disrespecting grandchildren and non-responding parents. The author also specifies that the writer of the story tries to bring the attention of the reader to the rising of crime with the passage of time and how it is becoming difficult to find good people like a grandmother and Red Sammy nowadays in the presence of a serial killer at loose.

In conclusion, Flannery O’Connor’s short story can be perceived in many different ways which totally depending on the reader’s perspective. The character of the grandmother is shown to be selfish, deceitful, demanding and manipulative which leads to the demise of herself and her family. It also shows the social misery and the psychological haphazardness of the family members as they travel to another city for a vacation. The haphazard decisions made by the family members and the situation of accident and eventual death that they met at the end show the disorganized side of the characters. Moreover, the antagonist’s state of mind although shown as confused and clouded by the manipulation of the grandmother, he eventually decides to give in to his criminal believes and kills the whole family. Although the character of the grandmother was flawed in many ways, there are other dimensions from which her point of view can be viewed in another positive, caring and selfless perspective as well.

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