A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
In “Flannery O’Connor’s misfit and the mystery of evil,” John Desmond clearly captures the undercurrent that flows in this story among other literary works by Flannery O’Connor. Desmond captures the wider story that flows under the current of this story because right from the beginning, he is inquisitive and open minded to see that the violent surface action is a suggestion to the complexities that lies in the depths of not only this story but also other literary works by O’Connor (Desmond 144).
From the first paragraph, Desmond identifies and sets out to pursue the mystery of evil in this story by O’Connor and its relation to the action in the narrative. He is able to see that the dispassionate murder of the Georgian family on the surface maybe a tragic story about a murderous escaped convict that is on the loose and ends up killing the entire family, including a child.
I am especially attracted to the idea that Desmond links the message of the mystery of evil with the story of Jesus. He explores this theme in the background of the story involving Jesus and Peter. In pleading with the misfit, the grandmother repeatedly calls him a good man. Jesus himself had rebuked Peter when he had tried to call him good. Jesus had stressed that no one should be called good in Mark Chapter 10 verse 18. The grandmother makes this mistake repeatedly when she encounters the misfit.
Moreover, Desmond observes that it’s only the devil that can be said to be purely evil. He concludes that good and evil, as actualities and potentialities are inextricably intertwined in human beings (Desmond 144). This is a profound realization that is central to the whole story. This realization is true to both the Misfit and the grandmother. Human beings are shaped by the mystery of those two invisible forces.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
It is extremely hard to understand the review written by Martha Stephens and also harder to agree with her because her criticism almost seems to spill over from the professional realm of literary criticism to a personal level. From the onset, she directs her criticism towards the achievements of O’Connor rather than on her abilities as a creative artist. In her criticism titled “The Question of Flannery O’Connor” she even mistakes O’Connor’s irony and sarcasm for humor (Shapiro 80).
What Stephens terms as unintentional humor is something important that O’Connor seems to have in plenty; irony. For example, the encounter between the Misfit and the grandmother is not supposed to be a moment of humor in this short story. In fact, this is the most serious and important moment in the narrative, the climax. At this juncture, the Misfit is in the process of murdering an entire family and the lady, being blind to her own evilness and hypocrisy is pleading with the Misfit to spare her because “he should not shoot a lady” (O’Connor 147). [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
The grandmother maintains this status of seeing herself as a better person than everyone in the car, including her grandchildren to the moment of her death. Martha Stephens misses a great opportunity to see that it is ironic that the grandmother should see herself as a better human being while it’s all clear that she is as bad as the Misfit; at least the Misfit knows that he is not a good man and is true to himself. She goes on to argue that what is intolerable about O’Connor is her refusal to see the beauty in human life. She argues that O’Connor has a loathing for the human body and humanity in general. However, she seems to be the one who loathes O’Connor to the point that she is blinded by the hatred from seeing what lies beyond the surface in many of O’Connor’s stories.
John Desmond is able to see the mystery of good and evil that O’Connor is exploring and sees the literary devices such as the irony and sarcasm as important to the way the story is told. One gets the impression that the hatred for what O’Connor accomplishes prevents Martha Stephens from looking deeper beyond the misfit and the grandmother. Her simplistic view about a rather complex story reveals her inability to appreciate the way that a bigger story is being told by the use of a simple story.
If the story “a good man is hard to find” was purely about O’Connor’s loathing for humanity, it could have simply been told by use of the two characters. However, the presence of the other characters acts as the antithesis to these two main characters. The likes of John Wesley and June Star act as the counterbalance as proof that it’s not only evil that resides in humanity alone (O’Connor 144). There is a dose of goodness and a dose of evil that resides in the soul of every man. In this story, even the Misfit does not come out to be purely evil because he is not sadistic enough to enjoy murdering of the entire family.
I agree with Desmond that from the conversation with the grandmother, the Misfit has inner desires that are not purely evil. He seeks after some justification and rationale for his spiritual predicament. He seeks some understanding as what he sees as the disproportion between actions he has committed and the personal suffering he feels afflicted. He can feel the mystery of evil in himself and finds it incomprehensible. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
The question that the Misfit asks himself reflects his spiritual side that is fundamentally human. However misguided and distorted, the Misfits ability to sense the evilness within the world and within himself suggests that to some extent, he is able to appreciate goodness (Desmond 144). Desmond is able to explore these deeper meanings in O’Connor’s work unlike Martha Stephens because he approaches the work in an open and inquisitive mind. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Desmond, John. “Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit.” Critical Insights. n.d. 144-145. Print.
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Print.
Shapiro, Charles. NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 8.1 (1974): 78-80. Print.