The Dogmas Of Good Vs Evil In Good Man Is Hard To Find

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Flannery O’Connor illustrates the religious decay of the south through the creation of flawed, contradicted and evil characters in her story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Though they appear to be complete opposites described within the text, the Grandma and The Misfit share one major similarity; sinful people in need of Jesus’ redemption. The character of the Misfit is outright evil and destructive, while also angered by the purported existence of a superior being’s grace, and the Grandma often chooses to ignore her own sins and treat her religious figures as a decision that she can change at anytime, as was such the commonality during O’Connors upbringing and adult life in the south. O’Connor chooses her characters quest to be up front with god’s wrath and or redemption and to decide whether or not to run from it or embrace it. O’Connor, through her characters, creates a perfect tale of religion and redemption in the twentieth century south.

To start off, I’ll begin by discussing the background of the grandmother character. Now, one has to make an educated guess about where her characters age falls. For the sake of this paper and considering the more traditional values in place at the time, I will infer that she is between 70-80 years old. As a senior citizen woman, her upbringing was based upon the values of status through blood bestowed upon her by god. She uses words not acceptable by today’s standards to describe people of color.It appears to me that O’Connor created the Grandmother this way to show that her beliefs are what killed her and her family, not the Misfit; also to show that no matter how much good you can bring into the world, there is always an evil present to take it away. As James Mellard remarks, ‘O’Connor simply tells her readers–either through narrative interventions or be extra-textual exhortations–how they are to interpret her work’ (625). Universally, I believe that the readers of this story fall to the conclusion that the most basic concerns rely on the principles of the Christian faith; belief, afterlife, and redemption.

Only two Characters are fully present in the story told; The Misfit and the Grandmother. The others are written carefully in to provide small plot advancements. The bratty June Star along with restaurant/gas station owner Red Sammy do specifically this, but don’t control the entire narrative of the story. The Misfit, though not present until the last pages, has his presence hanging above it all from the very beginning. Grandmother warns everyone not to go to Florida for the Misfit is “aloose from the Federal Pen” (A Good Man is Hard to Find 137).

However, it appears the Grandmother quickly forgets about her concern and was only hoping to use it as a reason to take Bailey and the family to another location in which she had wished to visit. In that short mention, the reader already knows that a conflict will arise with the Misfit. We’re not sure who it will entail, but that he will appear. At first the reader is tricked into believing it will happen at Red Sammy’s. I believe that O’Connor purposely put the character of Red Sammy in as a Red Herring for this because he serves no other purpose other than to reference the story’s title. Certainly it’s not just a coincidence that both the name and phrase share the same prefix and that sammy is slang for salmon; another type of fish. Next the family drives off and only a few sentences later their car has rolled over in a ditch.

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Finally, the reader knows that the Misfit is about to officially enter the story. As soon as he is formally introduced, he begins his reign of evil upon the family. Killing all of them one by one, until he reaches the grandmother. As she realises that her life is about to come to an end, she pleads with him to seek jesus. By doing so it seems as though she only wants him to think of religion as a means of him to spare her life.

At this point everyone else is dead and she appears to be selfishly trying to save herself when she’s the reason everyone else was killed. I choose to look at the Grandmother’s plea for her life as a plea of redemption. At this moment, the Misfit symbolizes a higher power with the ability to take one’s life away. This is something that religious people typically believe God only has the power to decide and to do. Since it is established that the Grandmother chooses when to believe in her faith, one can deduce that she is not accepting that it’s her time to die.

Simultaneously, you could claim a moment of possible redemption for the Misfit. Should he choose not to kill the Grandmother, one could assume he experiences a brief moment of spirituality. By not choosing her to die, it would present him as having at least an ounce of morality within his mind. Flannery O’Connor even seems to agree with her decision on how she set up the ending, ‘If I took out this gesture and what she says with it, I would have no story. What was left would not be worth your attention’ (Mystery and Manners 112).

O’Connor is saying that if the Misfit had just shown up and killed everyone without the key exchange between himself and the Grandmother, there would be no story. In essence it would be a modern horror film where people just die for the sake of showing it on a screen. She carefully chose how to set up the entire story to at the end, show specifically what is known as, “Catholic Dogma”.

Dogma is defined as “a fixed belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts” (Cambridge Dictionary Online). There are two parts to Catholic Dogma; the first part is a Divine Revelation, and the second part is its relation to the authoritative teaching of the church. The revelation put forth is that this Catholic woman is facing imminent death by a gun to her body. Had she not pleaded for life, but instead accepted it, she would’ve immediately been accepted into Heaven as a martyr. Essentially, had the grandmother not pleaded her life, her sins would’ve been forgiven and she would’ve been seated at the right hand of the father.  

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