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“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Goodness is one aspect of human behavior that is based on how one perceives it to be. The term ‘good’ is often  related to the idea of being pleasant, acceptable and being on the right path. Nevertheless, there are instances when this term is being used loosely thus blurring its real meaning and the implication it has in relation to the condition of character that it is supposed to describe. Flannery O’Connor’s story focuses more on how goodness is portrayed not based on what the term suggests but on how the actors perceive its meaning. The grandmother, the main character, was shown in the story to have a differential idealism on goodness which shall be better defined in the discussion that follows.

            The symbolism of ‘goodness’ was presented in relation to how the grandmother sees the situation that she gets involved with. Take note that in consideration with the opening of the story, the grandmother was described as someone who would like what she wanted to happen. She insists on what she wants whether or not her family may agree to the matter. Notably, the family wanted to go elsewhere, however, she insisted on taking a vacation in Tennessee up to the point of using the Misfit as an excuse. Nevertheless, the family wanted to stay on track of where they want to take the vacation and neglected to see through what the grandmother was warning them about. As a retort to the situation, the grandmother decided to put her cat in the back of the car in a basket. She even placed a hat upon her so that when she is killed [because of the possibility of meeting the misfit] the police would know that the cat was a lady.

These instances of mischief and hidden assumptions of facts on the part of the actions of the grandmother specifically show the moral values she depends upon. What makes up her decisions to turn out the way they do is the fact that she simply hopes to confer with what she wants and not what was best for the family. Perhaps dependent on her being old, the author, Flannery O’Connor, wanted to show a character that was typical to most old-aged individuals. Observe how O’Connor described the grandmother’s persistence in pushing the family to go where she wanted in the lines that follow: The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. In connection to the said instance in the story, it was presented that coming into senses as to what was needed to be followed for the goodness of the whole family often becomes a blur in the consideration of the elderly. Understandably, she was more focused on herself. Her stories along the way to Tennessee which she told to her grandchildren showed so much centralization on her character being fully attentive to what she was, how she was back then and actually. Not giving attention to what the other members of the family wanted to say, she continued muttering about herself during the trip. Being concerned about her being, the symbolism of this story is focused on the process by which a person perceives goodness based on personal values.

What makes a person good is the compliance that he presents based on how others see and understand what goodness is about. Going back to the story, the grandmother was able to see Red Sammy and was able to know the manner by which he was swindled by two men to whom he gave gasoline to and let them charge the purchase trusting that they would go back and pay. To the grandmother, this was a sense of goodness on the part of Red Sammy as he was actually willing to give much to others depending on the trust that he has on people. However, later on the narration, it was imposed that Red Sammy did not trust anyone nor does his wife. In this case, trust and goodness were somewhat considered separately. In a way, trust could be given to someone and yet it may simply imply a naïve way of thinking and not goodness per se.  Nevertheless, since the grandmother sees his goodness based on that one thing that he did which was to ‘trust’ strangers and ‘give them with what they need when they need it desperately’ she still considered him a ‘good man’. In this case, trust was seemingly represented as one of the values that the grandmother considered worthy of being developed. Nevertheless, living in a non-trusting society would render such value worthless or even maybe a cause of vulnerability for those who believe in it like what happened to Red Sammy.

The Misfit was a criminal who of course did not deserve to be called good. Nevertheless, at the face of being subjected to possible death, the grandmother repeatedly asks the Misfit if he would kill a lady. This specifically indicates that the grandmother believes that the Misfit has something good in him and that he would be able to spare a lady from death and crime. Obviously, this points out that the grandmother was born during a time when ladies or women were given high respects. Seeing them as individuals to be spared from pain and torture, she believes that she could appeal to the Misfit with the said idea of being a lady, being a person who is weaker and needs more protection than being subjected to a merciless crime. If the grandmother simply said that the misfit was ‘good’ to save her own life though, the argument on her blurry understanding of goodness could be refuted. In the entire story though the point of focus was distinctly connected to want she would do for herself and what she would push to pursue even beyond the comfort of others living with her. She did not fully think of the members of her family in this case as she simply keeps repeating on the thought that he would not kill a lady and not a ‘family’. Relatively, she simply wants to save herself from the occurrence of sure death. When she was able to observe that she was not able to get the attention nor the mercy of the Misfit, she used religion and Christ as a means of getting to the heart of the criminal. Nevertheless, instead of bring her better chances of living this made things worse.

            The characters used by O’Connor in his story depict the general society of individuals having separate understanding of what goodness is all about. Hoping to establish a point of understanding especially regarding the process of insisting on morals and rightfulness of human decisions, O’Connor hopes to present that ‘goodness’ is based on human perception and that it has no specific basis. What one considers to be good may not be good to another. Being unique individuals as humans are, the term good is then often used to refer to different assumptions and dimensions of what a person is able to accomplish in his life. The decisions one makes and the reactions he presents whenever certain situations arise would define the ‘goodness’ that was in him. The grandmother, being old and all, was represented to be a person who already has established her personal standards. Hence, it was based from these standards that were likely developed through time and experiences that she judged the people she met with on the idea of being ‘good’. Furthermore, goodness is defined according to religious beliefs, personal standards of morals and norms that are supposed to be considered acceptable. It is through the establishment of these sources of understanding that a person becomes accustomed to a particular situation and thus become more relatively attached to what is considered ‘good’. This is why when situations present themselves to these individuals, they judge goodness based on what they believe to be good which likely reflects their personal beliefs, religious beliefs and the core dependence of their moral values. Given that there are several religions existing in the world today, several cultures that are collaborated together in modern societies, it could be realized how goodness becomes less defined based on specific structures. Instead, like it was portrayed in the story, goodness is primarily based on an individual’s perception of the matter.

References:

Flannery O’Connor (1993). A good man is hard to find. Discoveries Fifty Stories of the Quest

Jan Nordby Gretlund, Karl-Heinz Westarp, ed. (2006). Flannery O’Connor’s radical reality. Univ of South Carolina Press.

George Kilcourse (2001). Flannery O’Connor’s religious imagination: a world with everything off balance. Paulist Press.

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