The human condition is understood as the result of a fall from a potential or primordial state of grace or as a deviation from humanity’s original purpose. It is often characterized by pain, conflict, frustration or vain striving like in “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” (Bessie Head) but also by contradiction of a person’s true purpose as ordained by divine principles like in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” (Flannery O’Connor).
Although the human condition of the main characters is a little bit abstract, the scenes we are treating reveals how deep and intense the characters will manifest their primordial state of grace, confronting each other in both stories.
In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” the grandmother is described as a dynamic character because she undergoes internal change. She cares about herself, has a “strong faith”, seems to be above everybody and basically thinks that people had more values back in her days compared to now where there is almost no one to be trusted. “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.” (p. 262).
“The misfit” himself, running rampant is more a static or round character able to answer his own questions; therefore, for some people he might be considered as a philosopher who perceives life differently than others and makes or have his own moralities about it. He’s an intellectual person with a strong mind that can even bring other people to question themselves. “Maybe he didn’t raise the dead’, the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying…” (p. 272).
A Coin To ssI suppose one could say there are two sides to every coin. The coin being myself, I know that this statement is true. Although I am a person of many different characteristics, I basically boil down to the person I am and the person I hope to be. What is the goal, I ask myself. So many people strive to be so many things. For some the aim is money, beauty, security, power, influence; who ...
In the final scene, the human condition is shown in a materialistic egoistic or also religious way. The two main characters are in a conflict based on faith and life perception. After leaving her homeland with her family for a road trip, we still perceive “the grandmother” as a strong person until the arrival of “the Misfit”, right after her car accident; when she looses her peace of mind because of the fact that her family was taken away by his two associates and she is left all alone with him. She thinks that she can convert the “bad guy’s” thoughts with her beliefs based upon religion in order to survive and to make him a better man, but it doesn’t work. “She wanted to tell him that he must pray” (p. 271), “Finally she found herself saying, ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ meaning Jesus will help you” (p. 272).
Although his ways are unethical according to the tradition, the so-called Misfit still seems to find himself or his thoughts. Maybe he was looking for a final answer that only the grandmother could have in this context based upon faith or belief, otherwise he wouldn’t waste his time talking to her. “I wish I had been there, he said, hitting the ground with his fists…” (p. 272), “she should of been a good woman…” (p. 273).
The “old lady” appears as a week person for the first time when she finds herself dizzy and confused about Jesus raising the dead. And that’s where she looses the battle, causing her death as well. “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead, the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying…” (p. 272).
Finally, the battle stays a mystery because her death might have been planned under a foreshadow “gone with the wind” that reminds us that will be turned into dust (in the Bible), whereas at the final end “… like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky” (p. 273) the Author suggest that she’s a new person or maybe has a new chance compared to the misfit who lost his faith because “we pay for our sins” and didn’t have a second chance; Therefore, he might’ve not won the war.
In “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” the protagonist Brille is presented as a smart former teacher, father of twelve out of control children. A perceptive self reflected man who is considered to be a political prisoner, because of his belief based upon his own ideology (related to the apartheid) “they felt no guilt nor were they outcasts of society” (p. 668), the fact that he could commit survival crimes in prison in order to “survive” or because he knows how to defeat someone psychologically. “He was to be the boogey-man and when it worked … his presence could change savages into fairly reasonable human beings” (p. 669).
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The advantage is that political prisoners are psychologically strong enough to handle physical pressures in every aspect in a society. Hannetjie is the new chief official in charge of the prison (the ten Span One prisoners), not really smart, introduced as a racist and frightening man “primitive, brutal soul gazed out of them”, “Look’ere, he said. I don’t take orders from a kaffir” (p. 669).
He is also a father and has a wife whereas his “authority” is questioned throughout the story.
In this piece, the human condition is reflected by a fundamental dualism between pain and frustration. The whole Span One prisoners were punished because of the cabbage dropped by Brille next to the warder’s feet, which encouraged the protagonist to steal some food in order to make up for his mistakes however, when Brille got caught by Hannetjie, Brille lets the warder know that he saw him stealing the fertilizer and consequently uses his weakness to fill his needs.
At this stage, the human condition starts to manifest itself. The “Baas” negotiates with the “kaffir”, even though the Kaffir could be in trouble. The table has changed here.
“I caught him in the act of stealing five bags of fertilizer and he bribed me to keep my mouth shut” (p. 670), “you know, comrades, he said. I’ve got Hannetjie” (p. 670), “I think I can manage if it’s tobacco you want” (p. 671).
Now the warder will be punished and compared to the prisoner’s children after being perceived by Brille. “… and I saw today that Hannetjie is just a child and stupidly truthful. I’m going to punish him…” (p. 670).
Hannetjie, being himself taking advantage of “Brille looked at him, for the first time struck with pity…” (p. 671) will humiliate himself in a final move, in front of the prisoner, telling him “This thing between you and me must end. You may not know it but I have a wife and children an you’re driving me to suicide” (p. 671).
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Brille’s psychological “victory” is manifested in the sense that he doesn’t accept Hannetjie’s last tobacco deal, betrays him in a certain way; but is being right by letting him know that Span One needs a good warder. He’s a politician after all. “It’s not tobacco we want, but you, he said. We want you on our side.” (p. 671).
The morality being that you needs to behave (cleverly) in a society in order to be recognized by others. “Be good comrades, my children. Cooperate, then life will run smoothly.”
To conclude, the human nature is really apparent in both stories. And can sometimes be abstract, like in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, since we have no clue about who is right or wrong; or it can be based on concrete facts like in “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses”, where Brille, the protagonist has clearly won the “war”. Nevertheless, in both circumstances, the human being falls in a primordial state of grace from its original purpose.