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Researchers and scholars have over the years concluded that most of, if not all, of O’Connor Flannery’s works have been influenced by her religious beliefs. Many reviews have therefore aimed at identifying the biblical aspects in her texts. Consequently, her views regarding the society and religion have been the object of criticism with many scholars (Cofer 1). This paper seeks to determine the presence of central Christian mysteries in her novel “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” while at the same time determining the religious beliefs of the grandmother.
As the story begins, a family is trying to decide on the vacation destination for the year. The grandmother, the oldest family member, tries to convince the family to vacate in Tennessee instead of Florida as a safety precaution. Here readers are made aware of an escaped convict referred to as the Misfit and the grandmother’s concern over the fact that the misfit is headed towards Florida. Her caution goes unheeded as the family goes on the Florida vacation. O’Connor brings the reader’s attention to the grandmother’s navy blue dress and in turn states the reason for this being, “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead body on the highway will know at once that she is a lady” (O’Connor 138). The journey is marked by the grandmother’s complaining and eventually, ends in a car wreck caused by the grandmother’s startled cat.
The story ends with the Misfit and his gang finding the stranded family and killing them one by one. While the author fails to describe the actual killing processes, readers are made aware that the family members are taken in turns to a secluded place in the woods, from where gunshots are heard. O’Connor’s attention is on the conversation between the Misfit and the grandmother, who is killed last. Concepts of religion are more evident in this section of the novel as the grandmother attempts to appeal to the Misfit to spare her life. For instance, the Misfit says “ Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and he shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance” (O’Connor 151) referring to the Christian belief that Jesus brought the dead back to life. He however kills her in the end, as he sees no wrong in his deeds and does not believe in religion, a disadvantage to the old woman.
Christianity is presented in the last passage although it is in the form of cognitive dissonance. Here readers are able to make a direct connection between the text and Christianity because the grandmother and the Misfit have a conversation about Jesus and his status as savior of humanity. This is due to the mention of Jesus and the recorded miracles he performed before and after his death. As the Misfit’s gang continues to kill her family, the grandmother starts praying to Jesus asking him to spare her life and in turn hoping that the Misfit is religious (O’Connor 151). This backfires as the Misfit brings up his own ideas of Jesus, which include a belief that distorts there being any wrong or right deed. According to this, the Misfit concludes that there is important point in life.
The grandmother in the story is presented as a self-centered woman who aims at making others do as she pleases. Her insistent on going to Tennessee rather than Florida based on the Misfit was merely in attempt to see her “connections” (O’Connor 136). Next is the presence of Pitty Sing who, as Bailey had forbidden his mother, was not supposed to be in the car. However, the old woman goes against the given instructions showing her lack of consideration to the views of her family. It is important to note that Pitty Sing is the cause of the accident and at the end of the novel ends up with the Misfit. These factors suggest that the grandmother’s level of Christianity as a religion. Her vanity (O’Connor 138) and inability to consider the views of others dictate tendencies that go against Biblical teachings.
The misfit presents some confusion to his character as he states that, “because I can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment” (O’Connor 150) Here the Misfit explains to the grandmother the nature of his name. It can be argued that according to him, he did not deserve to be punished despite having committed crimes that according to the law deserve a form of punishment. In fact, he seems to blame Jesus for his actions as in the aforementioned instance where he holds Jesus responsible for “throwing everything off balance” (O’Connor 151). In addition, the Misfit says that, “It was a head doctor who said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it” (O’Connor 150) The man believes in his innocence but nobody did hence his spiral into crime including murder. However, as seen in the novel, he does not hold himself responsible; rather he believes it is Jesus’ fault.
Finally yet importantly, the moments leading to the grandmother’s death are marked with an epiphany to the grandmother. While still bargaining for her life, the Misfit states that, “I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't . . . if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now” (O’Connor 151) This seals the woman’s fate as the misfit has clearly made up his mind regarding Jesus Christ and Christianity as a religion and in turn, was not sparing the grandmother’s life. The change in her attitude is however apparent as she seems to change her mind regarding the Misfit. For instance, she refers to him as her “son” (O’Connor 151) although readers are aware that she had one son who was dead at this point of the narration. It is possible that although she did not mean that he was literary her son, she still felt responsible for making who he was in the novel, finding basis on his confusion and allegedly framed murder. With this in mind, it is suggested that the two characters experienced a moment of grace, where the grandmother understood the Misfit in ways that nobody has before (Cofer 18).
In conclusion, it is evident that central Christian mysteries are present in the narration. In addition to this, there is proof of cognitive dissonance as the author fails to make a stand regarding religion. A good example lies in the Misfit’s possible innocence despite him killing the whole family and the arguments he makes regarding Christianity also leaves readers wondering the author’s stand on the religion. The momentary connection between the convict and his next victim are however an indication of forgiveness on the grandmother’s part and acceptance towards the Misfit.
Cofer, Jordan. The Theology of Flannery O'Connor: Biblical Recapitulations in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor. PhD Thesis. Virginia: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2006. Print.
O'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Carlifornia: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich , 1977. Print.