I recently read a short story written by Flannery O'Connor called "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" and I was deeply intrigued by it. It really got my head spinning in logical places.
The story touched on the value of human life without the belief in religion and also the new era, that uses religion only as an image than an actual belief and acceptance.
The story's plot is simple but the ambiguity leaves it up to anyones interpretation. To read the short story please refer to this site : - http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/goodman.html
so then I can continue on with some of the deeper meaning and allusions of the story.
The family represents the modern family after world war two, where industrialization was at a craze in America. Automobiles were created faster than you could say 'CAR!'. People were becoming wealthier and so morals declined, people began to question life values, sometimes for the worse. As this family locates in the South, the Bible Belt, religion is still there but its been used as a means of image instead of truth. This can be noted with the Grandmother. A woman who believes that dressing in Godliness, is a main fundamental of Chrisitanity. Her image of holiness could be considered as only a means to indirectly get what she wants through manipulation. She is portrayed as a selfish, nagging woman, whose attachment with religion is only one of an empty facade.
The rest of the family lacks description which has been done on purpose by O'Connor. She does this to possibly represent the new America, the fall in spirit and conscience.
Bailey, the father is an easily manipulated man which the Grandmother takes advantage of.
Bailey's wife is so irrelevant that she isn't even given a name.
The two kids are portrayed as spoiled brats.
The Misfit is the symbolization of evil in the story, but only the symbol. He is given the true depth and characterization despite his role of meaning to be the 'evil.'
He even admits to being evil. When the Grandmother continuously says that he is a good man, he says he isn't good but he isn't the worst.
The Misfit blurs the lines between good and evil. He is considered the most important theoligian character in the whole of American literature.
He is an atheist because he believes that second hand accounts cannot be enough evidence to convince him of Christianity. He suffers from internal conflicts, self-inflicted on himself. He is not a good man, as evidenced in the story but he is not evil either. One is able to still like and show interest in his character despite what he does.
O'Connor references him to a fallen prophet. A man trying to find meaning in life despite his need to question everything that comes to him. He doesn't kill for fun, he kills because he believes he has to. He believes in some delusional state, that some sort of good will come out of his actions.
The Misfit talks a bit about his history, he claims he was punished for something did not do, yet he does not deny what he did entirely.
He questions punishment and the rules followed in Christianity.
In Christianity one believes that one sin is just as bad any other sin, whether that be killing or stealing.
"Does it seem right to you, lady, that one punished a heap and another ain't punished at all?"
The Misfit is a complicated man because he wants some sort of justification for his spiritual predicament. He is a man suffering from doubt. He hints the want for a rational system of human justice in which actions and consequences can be balanced out between good and evil, but the human condition is not able to do such. He will not accept Christ but he does agree that a world, where actions and consequences can't always be distinguished between good and bad, causes the distinction to collapse. Creating a world where he says there is 'no pleasure but meanness.'
A reason the Misfit can't accept Christ is the mysterious resurrection of Christ. Denial of the resurrection would make the Misfit's life much easier. If Christ did actually come back from the dead it goes against the system the Misfit wants to base his values on. He wants to base his system on logical consistency, that after one dies, then they die because of the actions and consequences, that there is no implying of the supernatural.
The Misfit does say that if Christ was resurrected and he saw it through his own eyes then he wouldn't be the person he was today because there would be a basis for him to mount his beliefs on, that there is the notion of Grace. His anger mounts when he wishes he could actually be there to find out if Christ was brought back from the dead or if he wasn't, so he wouldn't be caught in area of understanding yet knowing nothing about life.
So, the Misfit is stuck in the middle of uncertainty. The boundaries of good and evil blurred and his thirst for truth a cause for his complicated state.
For reality's sake, the Misfit is represented as the man who wants to find something to believe in. The agnostic-seeker. O'Connor represents this as the lot of people who lacked belief when the new era of America came through. They questioned and questioned until some people like the Misfit became lost in a grey haze of unknowing.
The end of this story shows the Grandmother find some sort of Grace. Through all her selfishness, her last words bring her to her transformation. But it has only come during her final moments of her life. The Grandmother realizes that everyone can be forgiven by God and that everyone is a child of Gods.
"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children"
As the Grandmother touches him, the Misfit recoils and shoots her three times in the chest.
The vicious and sudden action can be interpreted in so many ways.
I for one, interpret it as the Misfit liberating himself from the whole scenario. He is described as crying in the end, grief was something the Misfit had no feelings of before.
He then says that:-
"She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
Stating that although the Grandmother did find Grace, she only found it when she knew of her ultimate demise.
Not only did the Grandmother transform and find Grace, the Misfit himself also found some sort of hidden faith from the transformation of the Grandmother.
And it is then that we see some sort of new conception from the Misfit.
Possibly leading him down the pathway of finding himself.
This whole story could be interpreted in so many ways, but this is what I basically believe it is about.
Two characters, the Grandmother and the Misfit. One who hides behind an image of being religious and one who is real in character but does know his place in life.
Both types of people that O'Connor believes came out after the World War.