A Good Man is Hard to Find”

“A Good Man is Hard to Find”
Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor 1925-1964
Characteristics of O’Connor’s Work
Southern Lens
Local Color
Catholic Perspective
Comic/Tragic Vision
Shocking Plots
The Gothic in Literature
18th century
Particularly American
Horror, violence,
Gothic architecture
Purpose to build
Supernatural, ironic,
unusual events guide
the plot
Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”
Southern Gothic
“A lurid or macabre writing
style native to the American
South. Since the middle of the
20th century, Southern
writers have interpreted and
illuminated the history and
culture of the region through
the conventions of the Gothic
narrative (or Gothic novel),
which at its best provides
insight into the horrors
institutionalized in societies
and social conventions.
Foremost among these
authors are William Faulkner,
Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee
Williams, and Carson
The Grotesque
A feature of the
Southern Gothic
Situations, places
or stock characters
that possess
disturbing features
Racial bigotry
unexpected action
Southern Gothic, 2005
Flannery O’Connor on The Grotesque
In each story, “an
action that is totally
unexpected, yet
totally believable”
(118), often an act of
violence, “violence
being the situation
that best reveals what
we are essentially”
--O’Connor, Mystery and
“Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at
night naming the classes of
people. On the bottom of the
heap were most colored
people, not the kind she would
have been if she had been one,
but most of them; then next to
them—not above, just away
from were the white …Usually
by the time she had fallen
asleep all the classes of people
were moiling and roiling around
in her head, and she would
dream they were all crammed
together in a boxcar being
ridden off to be put in a gas
“Parker’s Back”
O’Connor’s stories
raise “the voices of
displaced persons
offering the Grace
of God in the
grotesqueness of
the world.”
Georgia Women of
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1953)
Themes in “A Good Man”
Good vs. Evil
Faith vs. Doubt
Old vs. New Ways
as seen in the
Old vs. New South
Is there such a
thing as a good
A Close Reading
Local Color
Catholic Perspective
The Characters
John Wesley
June Star
Red Sammy
The Misfit
How is each character
awful in his own way?
Who is the real misfit?
The Journey—1950’s
The “family car”
Atlanta to Florida
What is the
The Journey?
From the Old
South to the New
Search for Christ?
Misfit’s failed
journey to
The Misfit: The Freak in All of Us
"It is only in these
centuries when we are
afflicted with the
doctrine of the
perfectibility of human
nature by its own efforts
that the vision of the
freak in fiction is so
disturbing. The freak in
modern fiction is usually
disturbing to us because
he keeps us from
forgetting that we share
in his state" (Mystery
and Manners, 113).
Flannery O’Connor’s God
“While the South
is not Christcentered, it is
certainly Christhaunted”
Southern Road Signs, circa 1940
O’Connor’s Christian Mystery
“the action of grace in
territory largely held
by the devil” (Mystery
and Manners, 118).
“We go by the side of
the road, watching
those who pass.
Beware lest he devour
you. We go to the
Father of Souls, but it
is necessary to pass
by the dragon.—St.
Cyril of Jerusalem” (“A
Good Man” 357).
O’Connor’s Redemption
“for me the
meaning of our life
is centered in our
Redemption by
Christ and what I
see in the world I
see in its relation
to that” (The Fiction
Writer and His Country)
The Adoration of the Name of
Jesus, El Greco, 1578-80
The Grotesque in “A Good Man”
(In The Enigma of William Tell, 1933, Salvador Dali)
O’Connor’s Moment of the Grotesque
"I suppose the reasons for the use of so much
violence in modern fiction will differ with each
writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have
found that violence is strangely capable of
returning my characters to reality and preparing
them to accept their moment of grace."
"In my stories a reader will find that the devil
accomplishes a good deal of groundwork that
seems to be necessary before grace is effective."
"the devil [is] the unwilling instrument of grace"
and that her "subject in fiction is the action of
grace in territory held largely by the devil."
(Mystery and Manners, 18)
Passing By the Dragon
“Why you’re one of
my babies. You’re one
of my own children.”
“She would have been
a good woman,” the
Misfit said, “if it had
been somebody there
to shoot her every
minute of her life.”
(“A Good Man,” 367).

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