Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner can be viewed as the most distinguished representatives of the literary style known as Southern Gothic. In their works, they often explore the lives of individuals who cannot adjust to cultural and social changes. In many cases, these people prefer to reject these changes or turn a blind eye to them. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about such short stories as A Rose for Emily and A Good Man is Hard to Find. In particular, one should speak about Emily Grierson described by Faulkner and the unnamed Grandmother who is the main character of Flannery O’Connor’s short story.
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In both cases, the authors describe the tragedy or unavoidable fall of a person. Apart from that, the protagonists have many common character traits which eventually lead to the unavoidable demise of these people. In particular, the writers attempt to show that moral righteousness, unfounded sense of prestige, and unwillingness to recognize one’s mistakes result in the self-destruction of an individual. Nevertheless, the authors use different literary devices in order to explore this theme. These are the main questions that should be discussed in greater detail.
In the literary context, the term tragedy implies that the fall of a person is unavoidable. To some degree, this idea is stressed in both short stories. In turn, the readers can see that the tragedy is unavoidable because both characters try to reject reality. In order to highlight this idea, the writers focus on the values and worldviews of the characters who prefer to live in the imaginary world of their past.
It is much more convenient to act in this way; nevertheless, they disregard the dangerous consequences of this behavior on the lives of other people. These people want to emphasize the idea that they belong to the elite layers of the Southern society. For example, Emily states that she does not have to pay taxes. In particular, she believes that the previous mayor of the town, Colonel Sartoris freed her from this duty. Yet, she does not want to consider that Colonel Sartosis died many years ago, and her claims cannot be supported in any way.
Moreover, she does want to her house to be numbered as every other house in the town. In this way, she wants to distinguish herself from other members of the community. One should bear in mind that during the antebellum period, Emily’s family was among the most distinguished ones in the town. So, this character desperately tries to retain this legacy.
To some degree, this behavior is also typical of the Grandmother. In particular, she continuously says that she should be called a lady. In her opinion, this word is not only a polite description of a woman. More likely, this title has to emphasize her high social status and noble birth. Furthermore, she continuously recollects the so-called Old South, a highly-segregated society in which the status of a person was determined primarily by his/her birth.
Apart from that, the Grandmother is convinced that her moral values are principles are superior to the values of other people. Thus, both characters cherish the past without acknowledging the disastrous impacts of such worldviews. These are some of the peculiarities that can be singled out. Yet, despite the flaws of these women, one can still feel sympathy for them because their values or worldviews could be shaped by other people such as their parents or educators. This is one of the issues that should take into account.
Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that the authors rely on different plot structures in order to describe the tragedy of both characters. For instance, Faulkner relies on the non-linear plot structure. At the beginning, the unnamed narrator mentions Emily’s funeral and shows how town residents perceived Emily. This introduction is important for understanding the values of this character. Later, the story-teller tells how the main character slips into madness. In contrast, Flannery O’Connor chooses a linear narrative describing the tragic chain of coincidences that lead to the death of the Grandmother as well as her relatives. To a great extent, she prompts the readers to think about the underlying cause of these events.
It is possible to say that the concept of tragedy plays a more important role in Flannery O’Connor’s story. For instance, the Grandmother insists that the family should see a plantation house which is allegedly located in Georgia. Apparently, this house was constructed during the antebellum period. Nevertheless, she forgets that this house was actually built in Tennessee.
This decision leads to the tragic outcome; in particular, they meet a gang of runaway prisoners who kill them. There are several literary devices that eventually foreshadow the demise of the Grandmother. For instance, one can mention the description of Misfit’s cars that resembles a hearse. In this way, Flannery O’Connor tries to indicate at the impending disaster. It is necessary to mention that such tragic coincidences play an important role in the classical Greek tragedies such as Oedipus the King. Overall, Flannery O’Connor illustrates the cruel irony of the events resulting in the death of the Grandmother.
Such elements are not present in Faulkner’s short story. This author pays more attention to the use of symbols. For instance, one can mention Emily’s house which symbolizes the legacies of the past, especially the time when Emily’s family could play a vital role in the local community and the entire Old South as well. However, in both cases, the writers highlight that only by clinging to the past, a person can act in the self-destructive way. Furthermore, he/she can unwillingly harm other people. These are some of the details that can be distinguished because they throw light on some of the main ethical pitfalls that one should avoid.
On the whole, this discussion shows that William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor want to explore how and why a person can become doomed to failure. In both cases, this outcome can be explained by the fact that a person is not able to acknowledge changes. Furthermore, one should speak about the failure to recognize one’s errors. Admittedly, the writers apply different plot structures and literary devices. However, in both case, the unavoidable fall of a person plays a key role in the narrative.
This theme is important for understanding the ideas expressed by the authors who want to show that the demise of both characters can be explained by their worldviews and values. Much attention should be paid to a person’s self-righteousness and unwillingness to recognize changes. Finally, both writers are able to evoke compassion for the characters, even though these people have many moral flaws. This is one of their major achievements. These are the main details that can be distinguished.