“A Good Man is Hard to Find” Flannery O’Connor
Characteristics of O’Connor’s Work • Southern Lens • Local Color • Catholic Perspective • Humorous • Strong Characterization • Comic/Tragic Vision • Shocking Plots (Gothic/Grotesque)
The Gothic in Literature • 18th century • Particularly American • Horror, violence, supernatural • Gothic architecture • Purpose to build suspense • Supernatural, ironic, unusual events guide the plot • Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”
Southern Gothic • “A lurid or macabre writing style native to the American South. Since the middle of the 20th century, Southern writers have interpreted and illuminated the history and culture of the region through the conventions of the Gothic narrative (or Gothic novel), which at its best provides insight into the horrors institutionalized in societies and social conventions. Foremost among these authors are William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, and Carson McCullers.” • www.notesinthemargin.org/glossary_of_literary_terms/southern_gothic.html.
The Grotesque • A feature of the Southern Gothic • Situations, places or stock characters that possess disturbing features • Racial bigotry • O’Connor’s unexpected action • Southern Gothic, 2005
Flannery O’Connor on The Grotesque • In each story, “an action that is totally unexpected, yet totally believable” (118), often an act of violence, “violence being the situation that best reveals what we are essentially” (113). • --O’Connor, Mystery and Manners
“Revelation” • “Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at night naming the classes of people. On the bottom of the heap were most colored people, not the kind she would have been if she had been one, but most of them; then next to them—not above, just away from were the white …Usually by the time she had fallen asleep all the classes of people were moiling and roiling around in her head, and she would dream they were all crammed together in a boxcar being ridden off to be put in a gas oven.”
“Parker’s Back” • O’Connor’s stories raise “the voices of displaced persons offering the Grace of God in the grotesqueness of the world.” • Georgia Women of Achievement
Themes in “A Good Man” • Good vs. Evil • Faith vs. Doubt • Old vs. New Ways as seen in the Family • Old vs. New South • Is there such a thing as a good man?
A Close Reading Local Color Strong Characterization Humor Catholic Perspective Southern Gothic/Grotesque
The Characters • Grandmother • Mother • Bailey • John Wesley • June Star • Red Sammy • The Misfit • How is each character awful in his own way? • Who is the real misfit? • www.spazmanda.com
The Journey—1950’s • Evolving transportation system • The “family car” • Atlanta to Florida • What is the journey?
The Journey? • Family breakdown? • From the Old South to the New South? • Search for Christ? • Misfit’s failed journey to redemption?
The Misfit: The Freak in All of Us "It is only in these centuries when we are afflicted with the doctrine of the perfectibility of human nature by its own efforts that the vision of the freak in fiction is so disturbing. The freak in modern fiction is usually disturbing to us because he keeps us from forgetting that we share in his state" (Mystery and Manners, 113).
Flannery O’Connor’s God • “While the South is not Christ-centered, it is certainly Christ- haunted” (www.georgetown.edu.faculty/bassr/heath/syllabuild/iguide/o’connor.html).
O’Connor’s Christian Mystery • “the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil” (Mystery and Manners, 118). • “We go by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.—St. Cyril of Jerusalem” (“A Good Man” 357).
O’Connor’s Redemption • “for me the meaning of our life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in its relation to that”(The Fiction Writer and His Country) • The Adoration of the Name of Jesus, El Greco, 1578-80
The Grotesque in “A Good Man”(In The Enigma of William Tell, 1933, Salvador Dali)
O’Connor’s Moment of the Grotesque • "I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace." • "In my stories a reader will find that the devil accomplishes a good deal of groundwork that seems to be necessary before grace is effective." • "the devil [is] the unwilling instrument of grace" and that her "subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil." • (Mystery and Manners, 18)
Passing By the Dragon • “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children.” • “She would have been a good woman,” the Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” • (“A Good Man,” 367).