Flannery O’Connor’s Expression of Modern Society
Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was an American writer who wrote a number of short stories along with a few novels. One of her most popular works is A Good Man Is Hard to Find. In this short story, O’Connor expresses her view of modern society as corrosive and immoral through her work A Good Man is Hard to Find. The author expresses this through the children’s disrespectful behavior, instances of deception and lack of courage portrayed throughout the story.
O’Connor portrays the children (June Star and John Wesley) as disrespectful children, indicating the decay of respect for elders and rudeness of modern society. O’Connor was raised as a Roman Catholic in the 1920s-1930s. She was taught to respect her elders and be polite. Ever since the children are introduced, they are portrayed with a rude attitude. The grandmother is interested in going to Tennessee while the family plans on going to Florida. When the grandmother insists on a trip to Tennessee, John Wesley, the little boy, abruptly responds: “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home” (O’Connor 365)? Directly after the boy scolds the grandmother, the little girl, June Star, responds: “She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day” (365).
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The children, especially June Star, continued to show a very unfriendly and rude attitude. The
family stops at a place called The Tower to get barbeque sandwiches, owned by a man named Red Sam. June stepped onto the dance floor, tap dancing. When Sam’s Wife makes a comment asking June to be her little girl, June harshly responds: “No I certainly won’t. I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks” (367-368).
The kids almost cause an accident during the drive, when grandma pumps them up about a house with treasure in it. John Wesley kicks the back of the driver seat really hard, hurting his father and June Star whined in her mom’s ear. O’Connor’s rude portrayal of these children totally minimizes sympathy for them, even when they are murdered at the end. At the end of the story, the bad children have a tragic end to their lives, symbolizing the consequences of a rude and impolite society. Along with the children disrespecting elders, some characters use deception to fulfill their wants.
In the story, the author adds some instances of deception, which relate to the immoral modern society, where everyone is ready to deceive one another, for their own personal benefit. O’Connor establishes that in the beginning of the story, when the grandmother is trying to scare the family from going to Florida, saying there’s a criminal on the loose heading towards Florida. She is using deception to gain something for herself (her trip to Tennessee).
Stephen C. Bandy is a writer/critic, who has written several pieces on short stories. On one of O’Connor’s works, he quotes, “Once the family sets off on their vacation trip, the Grandmother seems to forget her feigned concern, for it is only a strategy by which she hopes to force Bailey to take the family in another direction.” The grandmother also used deception to go see the old house, which she believes is in Georgia, at first, then isn’t sure if it might actually be in Tennessee. She uses her
wits to hype up the kids, telling them there is a treasure somewhere around the old house. Towards the end of the story, the Misfit also uses deception to lure the family members into the woods to execute them. All of this deception builds towards the argument of how the modern society is selfish and uses deception for personal gain. O’Connor also emphasizes the point that there is a lack of courage portrayed throughout the story.
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The characters in the story exhibit minimum courage if any throughout the story, resembling the writer’s feeling towards modern society. O’Connor shows how uncourageous people could not get out of a tough situation. One such instance, where courage was lacking, was when Bailey, the father of the children, planned on encountering the three men. He was ready to take charge of the situation, as he quoted, “Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this” (372).
But suddenly, he had lost all courage, and froze in his steps. Bailey was not brave enough to step up for his family, resulting in his execution and consequently, the whole family’s. Another character, who was missing courage, was Bailey’s wife. She was holding the infant in her hand, but when she was asked to step out and come to the woods, she showed no reluctance. She went without a fight and without any courage.
After analyzing O’Connor’s story, A Good Man’s Hard to Find, it is quite clear that O’Connor had many hidden messages within the story. Her views have been embedded in the short story. Discovering the events, characters and their behavior, gives us proof that her view of modern society was negative, and that she thought individuals are walking on the wrong paths. The story overlaps with an ideology, stating that modern society is heading in the wrong direction.