One of the most observable literary techniques in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is symbolism. In the plot, the author applies symbolism to add meaning to the narrative. Several symbols are evident throughout the story, and each stands out to represent specific themes or meanings in the storyline. For instance, the grandmother symbolizes negative traits of people; the tower is a symbol of danger, while the Misfit represents evil. Nevertheless, an in-depth analysis of symbolism shows that the weather is the most dominant symbol in the story, and every scene is described in a given type of weather. Arguably, O’Connor uses weather symbols in different scenarios to foreshadow the consequent occurrences in every scene.
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In multiple times, the prevailing weather condition is something that appears throughout the story. After his identification, the Misfit discusses the sky, “there is no cloud in the sky. I do not see the sun, but I also don’t see clouds” (O’Connor 147). Also, when Misfit describes his first time in the penitentiary, he looks up and says that it is cloudless (O’Connor 150). Surprisingly, in both cases, the weather is not cloudy and not sunny but empty. An in-depth analysis would reveal that an empty sky symbolizes a bad omen or a bad sign. After the car accident, the family is trapped in the middle of nowhere, and the members are desperate (O’Connor 149). They do not have hope of finding help and returning home, just like the empty sky. Similarly, the empty sky can also symbolize the character and meaning of Misfit. For example, he claims to have forgotten the crimes he had committed and keeps everything he signs. He is a desperate man with no moods, feelings, and hope for life. He does not have a family and murders people without feeling guilty. He is also a thief who does not care what other people feel when he steals from them. After the Misfit discusses Jesus and Salvation, the ready would think that he has finally become a civilized man. But within a few minutes, he shoots the grandmother three times, which shows that he is a man without respect for human life. Arguably, the Misfit is an empty man with no life, and that is why he only sees empty skies above his head.
The weather can also symbolize the state of mind, as seen in various scenes in the storyline. For example, when Wesley and June realize that they have anything to do, they play a game by choosing a cloud and make the other two guess the shape each item suggests. Wesley’s cloud has the shape of a cow, which June makes a correct guess (O’Connor 36). John does not accept June’s correct guess and states it looks like a car, and they start fighting in front of their grandmother. Consequently, the cloud symbolizes the aura or state of mind that the two have, especially John Wesley’s unfairness in his mind.
At the start of the journey, the sky is not empty but full of clouds. In this case, the family is full of hope that they will complete the journey successfully. However, they appear to have blocked thoughts, blind minds, and misinterpreted meaning. For example, the two children have wrong or blinded perceptions of the meaning of cloud shapes in their game, which describes their empty states of mind (O’Connor 84). In the same way, the grandmother’s perceptions of the nature of goodness are wrong as she has blocked thoughts. The audience can see that the grandmother cannot see the reality because there are clouds in her mindset.
In conclusion, the symbol of weather is the dominant literal technique that O’Connor uses in the story. In every scene, the author uses the prevailing weather to predict the events likely to follow. Also, the weather symbolizes the characters’ states of mind, which mainly appear to be empty or compromised in most scenarios.
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. Rutgers University Press, 1992.