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A good man is hard to find 2

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A good man is hard to find 2

The short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor could be viewed as a comic strip about massacre and martyrdom. What stops it from becoming a solemn story is its intensity, ambition, and unfamiliarity. O'Connor blends the line between humor and terror. She introduces her audience to the horror of self-love. The grandmother is thought of by the community as agood person and appears to be so on the surface, but she is also mean and narcissistic. She forces her family to abide by her wishes; she sees them as an extension of herself; and she seizes every opportunity to get what she wants. By manipulating her grandchildren, she gets her son to go back to the

house with the "secret panel", causing them to meet The Misfit, and ultimately sealing the entire family's death. O'Connor makes the trite seem sweet, the humdrum seem tragic, and the ridiculous seem righteous. The reader can no longer use their textbook ways of interpreting fiction and human behavior because O'Connor is constantly throwing our assumptions back at us.

Through out "A good man is hard to find" O'Connor reinforces the horror of self-love through her images. She contrasts the two houses, The Tower: the restaurant owned by Red Sammy, and the plantation house. The restaurant is a "broken-down place"- "a long dark room" with a tiny place to dance. At one time Red Sammy found pleasure from the restaurant but now he is afraid to leave the door unlatched. He has given in to the "meanness" of the world. In contrast to the horrible Tower is the grandmother's peaceful memories of the plantation house that is filled with wonderful treasures. However, the family never reach this house because this house does not even exist on the this dirt road or even in the same state. Because of the grandmother's pride she cannot admit that she has made a mistake. "'It's not much farther,' the grandmother said and just

as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up...." (144). The grandmother's pride and self-centered wish to see the house causes the Misfit to discover and murder the family. Both houses are, in effect, ruins of the spirit.

It is a comic view of the family that the reader receives in the first half of the story. The comedy is in the way O'Connor has very matter of factly and nonchalantly reported the characters outlandish actions and appearances. O'Connor has made this even more funny by not appearing to tell it in a funny way. The grandmother is the funniest and most colorful of the characters in the story; she is pushy, annoying, and at times an endearing grandmother. O'Connor makes the grandmother a target for her satire right from the beginning by exposing her absurd wardrobe and old-fashioned mannerisms.

"...The grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white

violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once thatshewas a lady." (138)

The last line becomes ironically funny because ultimately this is where the grandmother ends up- in a ditch dead. As a reader one must then question the seriousness of the author towards her characters and should the reader have a sympathetic view towards these characters when they are being presented to an audience as comical figures and an elaborate joke. If more attention is paid to the story's self-conscious technique, then the reader can adjust their sympathies in a way that would coincide with the story's style.

The first words uttered in the first pages of "A good man is hard to find" are directed to the reader almost as much as they are directed to Bailey: "Now look here, ...see here, read this." (137). The reader themselves are rustling the pages of the story almost simultaneously as the grandmother is shaking the newspaper at Bailey. Cleverly, O'Connor has made her reader self-conscious of her printed medium and undoubtedly made the reader aware of the similarities between them and her characters. Once the reader can understand the satirical overtone of the story, the absurdities become less important. For example, the writing is monotone but has a dramatic quality to it which O'Connor later uses to describe the family massacre. This mimics the newspaper the grandmother is rattling at her son's bald head. The grandmother's family will be killed by a man that views murder as a sport, he can look at a pile of bodies as nonchalantly as Bailey skimming over the weather report. The irony is absurd. This family is doomed by news stories and columnists. Nothing could be more horribly ridiculous.

O'Connor is re-enforcing her stylistic approach to the literature by having the children read comic books in the beginning of the short story, all the way through their fateful journey. This story, in many ways, is a verbal comic strip. It mimics that of the frames of a comic strip with small self-contained scenes. Their are no smooth transitions in the narrative but rather abrupt juxtapositions. One could almost imagine a bubble over

the characters head saying "We've had an ACCIDENT!" (145). Even the names of the characters elude to comic book figures: June Star and Red Sammy. The story could even be said to read like that of a comic book and imitate its layout. For example, the sign advertising Red Sammy's Restaurant. "TRY RED SAMMY'S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS RED SAMMY'S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE

HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY'S YOUR MAN!" (140). But then the narrative continues in a comic book like fashion describing the odd and bizarre scene as

the family pulls up to the Tower. "Red Sammy was lying on the bareground outside The Tower with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby," (140).

O'Connor's satirical irony is apparent in the scene with the little "Negro child." While the grandmother tries to beautify this poor pant-less black child living in a shack, O'Connor does not allow the reader to see the beautiful picture that the grandmother wants to paint.

"...'Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!' she said pointing to a Negro child

standing in the door of a shack. 'Wouldn't that make a picture, now?' she asked

and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He

waved. 'He didn't have any britches on,' June Star said. 'He probably didn't have any,' the grandmother explained. 'Little niggers in the country don't have things like we do. If I could paint that picture,' she said." (139)

Anthony Di Renzo, author of American Gargoyles, suggests that the "grotesqueness of the passage above is also pleasing as a whole, in the delightful interaction of its mismatched parts. O'Connor's real achievement here is one of composition, or rather, de- composition- since she dismantles the artistic rules that say that something is beautiful if, and only if, it conforms to certain rigid categories of dimension, proportion, and propriety," (140). If the grandmother were to have painted this scene, she would have concentrated on the greatness of the landscape, therefore romanticizing a picture that is far from deserving of that title. O'Connor, on the other hand, includes the dirty and

wretched shack and the pant-less child. Of course, the effect is satirical. The

grandmother's pretty picture is ruined when the little boy shows his bum to her. The old women's attempt to look beyond a blatant reality and make it pretty is being mocked by O'Connor.

The author has blended the line between the satirical and the lyrical to form a beauty that would not be considered a ...

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