The Dynamic Grandmother: Literary Essay of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

“In OíConnor we see the masterful presentation of the universal through the particular, the provincial. Consider, for example, ìA Good Man is Hard to Find,î where the evil in human hearts and the possibility of grace, the gift of love, are made terrifyingly and magnificently real in the lives of ignorant and limited people on a southern backwoods roadside ” (Douglas, 381).

Everyone must go through changes throughout his or her life, because changing is part of human behavior. In ìA Good Man is Hard to Find,î written by Mary Flannery OíConnor, the grandmother goes through many changes. The reader can change his or her mind about something: how he or she is acting, the ways he or she dresses, or even change his or her outlook on life and as well as his or her tone of conversation. In fact, changing is what the grandmother does in this short story. Throughout the story, the grandmother goes through changes through her mindset, her conversational tone, and her personality.

The first change the reader encounters in the grandmother is in the very beginning of the story. As the story opens, the grandmother tries to persuade her son, Bailey, to change his mind about going to Florida and to go to Tennessee, because she wants to visit her connections over there. After unsuccessfully trying, she flings a newspaper in his face, ìëHere this fellow calls himself the Misfit is a loose from the Federal Pen and is headed toward Florida, and you read here what it says that he did to these peopleíî (352).

Here she is just determined not to go to Florida and will try anything to make Bailey change his mind. But nothing seems to work.

Although she is determined to not go, ìThe next morning the grandmother is the first one in the car, ready to goî (352). If the grandmother cannot get her way, she will go along with the crowd, but she has to bring her cat along. This decision will ultimately will lead to her death. In these examples, the reader can see that she changes her mindset from persuading her family to go to Florida, because she was determined not to go to Tennessee, to willingness of going along to Tennessee, when she does not get her way.

Along with changing their mindset about something, a person can change his or her conversational tone, which is the second way in which we notice that the grandmother changes. The family decides to stop at Red Sammyís for a bite to eat and it is here that we find out that, ìëThese days you donít know who to trustíî (355). Finding some one to trust is hard and is a true quality for the grandmother because she is so manipulative and can change her conversational tone, to get people to believe her.

When the grandmother is talking to Red Sammy, she makes the comment of ìëPeople are certainly not as nice like they used to beîí (355). She is telling what she believes to be true about people nowadays. Red Sammy goes off to tell the grandmother about how two fellers stopped in for gas and he let them charge their gas. He asks her why she believes he did that. ëìBecause you are a good man!îí(355). At this point, the reader learns that the grandmother is a hypocrite and does change her conversational tone to persuade Sammy that he is a good person. Notwithstanding, her point before her conversation with Red Sammy is that people are not good. “The Grandmother, narrow-minded and opinionated repeatedly assures herself that she is a lady, a good Christian,  and a good judge of character; she maintains that Red Sammy, a bossy loudmouth is a ‘good man.'” (Kaplan, 903).

So far, throughout the story, the reader sees fluctuations in the grandmotherís attitude. However the biggest change one notices is in her personality. She goes from being ladylike to being an ugly person when she meets the Misfit. ìBut 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 that she was a ladyî (353). The grandmother may dress nice to look like a lady, but her actions and words speak louder. A real lady would not manipulate a situation to get her own way. A lady would not be a hypocrite and act to different ways or a lady would not try to get her way at all.

The grandmother may be ladylike in the beginning; however, she becomes an ugly person when in front of the Misfit.

“All her beauty, nice dress and her social standards that determine her idea of  goodness becomes useless in front of the Misfit. At this urgent moment, all the grandmotherís actions are motivated by trying to do everything to save her life” (Doxey, 204).

She tries to manipulate him, just like as she does with her family. ëìI know you are a good man. You donít look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!îí (359). The manipulative talk may work on other people, but not the Misfit. He is a bad character and knows he is not good. He recalls his past to her, and  still, the grandmother insists that he is good. With all her efforts in trying to convince the Misfit that he is good, he does not believe her and ends up killing her after her head clears and she says,ëì Why youíre one of my babies. Youíre one of my own children!îí (362). He knows that he is not good and that she is trying to change his opinion, but he is not ready to accept Christ or change. We do not realize that either one has changed but,

“In OíConnorís own words, “The Misfit is touched by the Grace that comes through the old lady when she recognizes him as her own child, as she has been touched by the grace that comes through him in his particular suffering.” The Grandmother realizes, OíConnor explains in a later essay, “that she is responsible for the man before her and joined to him by ties of kinship which have their roots deep in the mystery she has been merely prattling about so far””(Peidmont).

“The selfish Grandmother overcame meanness in a blind, overpowering moment. She dies, but in the moment of love and so grace” (Finnney).

In human nature, people can be manipulative and hypocritical and can lie to get their way. Some people, on the other hand, are truly good-natured, but get put down because others believe no one is good at heart. In this short story, the reader can see that the grandmother goes through many changes in her mindset, her conversational tone, and her personality. Hence, ìA good man is hard to findî(355).

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