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Authentically, ‘a good man’ is a person who posses excellent or admirable moral conduct. Flannery O’Connor is a staunch Catholic but a famous playwright in the American industry whose storylines mainly focus on Christianity with tragic and brutal as thematic features.
In her fictitious tragic story, A good man is hard to find, Flannery O’Connor gives a pernicious discernment of the phrase ‘good man’. From her allegorical story, O’Connor describes a ‘good man’ using some of her principal characters, Grandmother, and Red Sammy. According to the characters, a person fits the description of a good man if his/her behavior, norms, beliefs, and personality correlate with the values of the beholder even if one is devoid of morals.
Therefore, the definition of ‘good man’ is beyond what the eyes can see. Nevertheless, despite the poor moral conduct, God’s grace is always sufficient to every man. Concurring with the behavior of Misfit and Grandmother, O’Connor gives the elusive description of a good man relating it to gracility as a Christian value.
The theme of a good man
According to the novelist, the meaning of the word ‘good man’ may be debatable or relative depending on the judgment of an individual. Intentionally, O’Connor enlightens the world on the varied apprehension of the aforementioned phrase thus purporting it as meaningless.
For instance, Grandmother chooses to use the phrase ‘good man’ when referring to men who have similar perception to hers. She sidelines the word moral, which should concur with the interpretation of good men. In the first case, during the trip, the family encounters Red Sammy.
He angrily raises his complaints about two men whom he gave gasoline on credit. According to Red Sammy, the two men not only seemed trustworthy but also ‘good’ thus fit for the credit. Although grandmother reprimands him for trusting strangers, she eventually brands him a ‘good man’. Therefore, from Sammy’s case Grandmother defines a good man as a gullible person with unsound judgment and subterfuge faith. Inherently, her perception about good men is elusive to the audience.
In the second instance, grandmother calls Misfit a good man with considerable urgency after realizing her life is in danger. Moreover, she applies the phrase to Misfit because of his inability to shoot a woman. Although the moral conduct, social values and norms of Misfit differs from those of grandmother’s, she desperately refers to him as a good man. Her skewed or wayward definition of a good man lies deeply in the perception that he does not have “common blood” (O’Connor 578).
Thusly, grandmother’s diligently calls a man good if his believes are perpendicular to hers. The aforementioned cases, elusively describes a ‘Good man’ as somebody who may lack morals or kindness in his personality. According to Muller, a critic shows his dissatisfaction in the mixing of Christian values (Catholicism) like Grace with gothic aspects like killing (20). Although the beliefs and personality of grandmother and Misfit are not morally upright, salvation or grace reconnects them.
Theme of Grace
O’Connor expatiates the contemporary believe about Grace as a favor to not only the righteous but also to the sinful, wicked and unrighteous human beings. God confers grace even to people with moral decadence. Based on the aforementioned expositions about ‘good men,’ Grandmother and Misfit have the least chances of finding grace.
Grandmother posses some queer non-Christian virtues like lying and unappreciative. Besides manipulating her son in all his endeavors, she also lies to her grandchildren about a house that never existed. Eventually moral weakness leads to the tragic end of the whole family. According to biblical teachings, Grandmother is the least person to receive God’s grace.
When the family encounters Misfit and his Henchmen, grandmother recognizes him as her child by saying “you are one of my children (OConnor 580).” Although Misfit is a serial killer, Grandmother accepts him as one of her own giving equality to humanity. On the other hand, according to critics O’Connor connection of murders, tragic accidents, and moral decadence to Christian values like grace is unreasonable (Carter 20).
Grandmother shouts the name of Jesus when facing Misfit. Furthermore, she persuades Misfit to repent his sins, yet she does not know how to compose a prayer. On the other hand, after committing the mass killings Misfit says, “It’s no real pleasure in life” (O’Connor 585). Meaning he finds no joy in murdering people, and he may, in the future, change his habits. Therefore, the ambiguous, strange doctrines of Christianity like Grace give eternity to Grandmother and Misfit.
From O’Connor’s conclusion of the story, salvation applies to all individuals. However, challenges, misfortunes, and disagreements accompany an individual before acquiring the above norm. According to critics, O’Connor connects two worlds when she gives immoral people eternity; therefore, she violates Christianity teachings, which claims eternity to righteousness.
Despite grandmother presenting herself as righteous with admirable judgment skills, she realizes her life is not different from Misfit who was a prisoner and murder. Therefore, through expounding grace and ‘good man’ as her thematic elements, O’Connor calls for human equality in the world.
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Carter, Martin. The True Country: Themes in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor. Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 969.
Muller, Gilbert. Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O’Connor and the Catholic Grotesque. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1972.
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is hard to find. USA: The State University, 1993.