In Flannery O’Connor’s story A Good Man is Hard to Find the reader finds themselves confused by a informal mannerism as portrayed by the grandmother figure in the story. The thesis of this paper will delve into the grandmother’s perception and reaction the events around her and her personal view of certain situations. An analysis of the plot will be dissected as well as the force for specific characters in the story. O’Connor was a master crafter of symbolism and this too shall be broken apart and peered at in the context of A Good Man is Hard to Find.
(O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find ix). As mentioned prior an intriguing angle of the story is noticeable in the speech O’Connor gives to the dialogue of the story. The grandmother’s voice is the most recognizable as it is dynamic and allows for the reader to hear a certain arrogant yet refined, curious, and nagging woman behind each word. The dissection of the grandmother character is best found within the context of her phrasing. O’Connor emphasizes the grandmother’s speech through the narrative with such descriptive phrases as,
…the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady (O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 3).
Thus, in the description of impending doom the grandmother thinks still of what others might think of her and so, even murdered on the side of the road she wants to look her best (O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 3). The entire family centers on what the grandmother has to say and so the story also pays close attention to the mannerisms of this character. It is in this character that O’Connor introduces not only a family on vacation but a time period and a geographic location.
The family is on the road going from Georgia to Florida; the grandmother’s character is a representation of the past, in her mannerisms, her clothing (with a hat on for vacation in a stuffy car where no one is likely to see her or even care), and even her conversations as O’Connor writes, “In my time,” said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny! ” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack.
“Wouldn’t that make a picture, now? ” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved …”Little riggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture,” she said. O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 6). The colloquial use of such words as pickininny, rigger and the reference to country riggers not having pants on in the country all point to a social commentary on racism. The item that is extremely alarming in this symbolism is the calm reaction the rest of the family has to grandmother’s comments.
The reference to plantations and Gone with the Wind are all symbols in the story that allow the reader to navigate past the family on vacation and to take a rational road trip to the past, the aggressions of the country during the war and the common day sentiment on slaves as McPherson (1965) writes, “Freedom has been your legacy from birth; by some of us it has been achieved. We know what oppression is…” (McPherson The Negro’s civil War 15). Thus, the grandmother does not know in the story yet, what oppression is so then she most assuredly does not know what freedom is (O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 3).
O’Connor weaves an interesting tale that is multi-layered. The social commentary on slaves is just one level of the story O’Connor tells in A Good Man is Hard to Find. Another level of the story deals in the grandmother’s own unchallenged point of view. She says that she was courted by a Mr. Atkins who left a watermelon on her front porch every Saturday with the letters E. A. T. written on the side of it. The grandmother says a nigger boy ate it because of those initials and O’Connor exploits the character of the grandmother further by making her state to the children that she would have done well to have married Mr.
Atkins because he died a few years ago a rich man. The grandmother’s concern over money is also highlighted in the movie reference of Gone with the Wind since Scarlet was also obsessed with marrying a rich man. (O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 4). This feeling of having money is further emphasized briefly by June Star (the granddaughter) when the family breaks at Red Sammy’s, June Star said play something she could tap to so the children’s mother put in another dime and played a fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did her tap routine.
“Ain’t she cute? ” Red Sam’s wife said, leaning over the counter. “Would you like to come be my little girl? ” “No I certainly wouldn’t,” June Star said. “I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks! ” and she ran back to the table. “Ain’t she cute? ” the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely. “Arn’t you ashamed? ” hissed the grandmother. (O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find 9). Thus, the wants of the grandmother are shown through the actions of the granddaughter.
June Star states succinctly what is on her mind without apology just as the grandmother spends the entire trip in a nostalgic haze making lewd comments that are not appropriate about a person’s race and the grandmother does not only not apologize about this, but she cannot see anything wrong in it as Glatthaar expresses in Forged in Battle (1991), “Yet like Southerners, Northern whites had powerful prejudices against blacks…It was one thing, most Northerners reasoned, to regard the enslavement of the black race as cruel and inhumane; it was another to ask Northerners to regard blacks as their equals or welcome them as neighbors and friends” (Glatthaar Forged in Battle 11-12).