Flannery O’Connor is one of the renowned American writers who had a unique style and addressed quite sensitive topics. She was born and lived most of her life in the South, which affected her writing since the majority of her stories were set in this region. She was a devout Catholic, which often made her an outsider in the mostly Protestant society (“Flannery O’Connor”). Her faith had a profound effect on her literary works. It is also possible to note that her short stories are reflections of her own life and faith as well as the life of people around her. This paper explores the way Flannery O’Connor’s life and faith are presented in two of her most famous short stories “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People.”
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Flannery O’Connor’s Life in the Short Stories in Question
The writer’s short life was not a bed of roses, and she had to address quite devastating challenges. She lost her father who was the most important person in her life. O’Connor also found out about her own health condition quite soon and had to accept the fact she would die soon as well (Driskell and Brittain 2). The themes of death and disease (or rather disability) are quite recurrent in her works.
For instance, one of the characters of the short story “Good Country People” is the woman in her thirties, Joy who changed her name to Hulga, who had lost her leg when she was a child. The woman is well-educated, and she is an atheist with a “clear and detached and ironic anyway” mind (O’Connor, “Good Country People” 14). The writer herself was a woman with an ironic view of people and life with the exception that she was a religious person. The way Hulga treats her leg seems to be an illustration of the writer’s attitude towards her own health issue, which is something extremely personal and rather painful for her.
Another recurrent theme the author explores in her works is death. Many of her writing end with death that serves as the end of people’s hypocrisy (Kessler 122). In her “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” the writer depicts a tragedy that leads to the death of an entire family. The writer describes death as something ugly, unexpected, and meaningless. A story told to entertain children and earn their appreciation leads the family to a deserted road where a group of violent criminals tries to make their way to a safer place. The thoughtless talk of the Grandmother who recognizes the criminals’ leader, The Misfit, results in innocent people’s death.
It is noteworthy that the father, as well as his son, is killed first so the little girl, her mother, and grandmother have to live through the loss of the major person in their life. Importantly, the author shows people’s will to live irrespective of all possible problems, sorrows, and pain. The Grandmother cries out “you ought not to shoot a lady” and tries to bargain saying “I’ll give you all the money I’ve got” (O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” 1019). The old woman dies trying to save her life even though she knows that her whole family is shot to death.
In addition to such profound and sensitive themes as disability and death, O’Connor also pays much attention to the relationships between the mother and the daughter. The author had quite specific relationships with her mother who had a rigid character (“Flannery O’Connor”). This complexity is often revealed in the author’s literary works. In the short story “Good Country People,” the young woman and her mother have very different worldviews and seem to be unwilling to hear each other. Although they live in one house, they do not communicate properly or show affection. The only bond between them is their family ties, which causes certain disturbance and unrest in the daughter’s soul, which results in her decision to accept the seller’s invitation.
Moreover, middle-aged women are depicted in quite an unattractive way as they have a rigid set of beliefs and values that are far from real life. The Grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and Mrs. Hopewell in “Good Country People” are such females. It is clear that the author had unpleasant experiences and memories associated with her mother as she reflected these emotions in her short stories. The author seems to warn people about the tragic consequences that are typical of this rigidness. The grandmother is the major cause of her family’s death.
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Flannery O’Connor’s Faith in the Short Stories in Question
Reasons for the Author’s Attitude
The faith of Flanner O’Connor is also reflected in her works including the short stories under consideration. As mentioned above, the writer was a devout Catholic who attended weekly masses and even traveled to Rome and met the Pope (“Flannery O’Connor”). This devotion may be the reason for her specific depiction of the religiousness of people around her. In both short stories under analysis, the author reveals people’s hypocrisy and religion-related delusions.
The most remarkable and illustrative character is the Grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” as the old lady tries to seem to adhere to major Christian values and seeks these standards in everyone. She appeals to Christian virtues when she understands that her family is doomed, but her attempts only reveal her own hypocrisy. It is even possible to note that death becomes the way to release her dual self (Kessler 122). The Grandmother chooses quite hypocritical behavior even in the face of death.
Hypocrisy in “Good Country People”
In the other short story under consideration, Mrs. Hopewell and the Bible seller attempt to seem religious and worthy, or be “good country people” as they both put it (O’Connor, “Good Country People” 7). For example, Mrs. Hopewell hardly knows where her Bible although she says it is her daughter who is against keeping the Bible in the parlor. The man sells Bibles and appeals to various Christian beliefs although he keeps liquor in one of the books. They try to be Christians to create an image that helps them in their everyday lives.
On balance, it is necessary to note that Flannery O’Connor reflected on her life and her faith in her literary works. Such short stories as “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People” can be regarded as remarkable illustrations of this fact. In both works, the writer explores the themes of death, disability, family relationships, and people’s hypocrisy. Being a religious person, O’Connor revealed her discontent and even despite it towards the people who wanted to seem better than they were in reality. In her grotesque style, the author made people witness the ugliness of such behavior and possible adverse outcomes. The works of this talented writer offer numerous lessons to learn.
Driskell, Leon V., and Joan T. Brittain. Eternal Crossroads. The University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
“Flannery O’Connor.” Films on Demand, 2016. Web.
Kessler, Edward. Flannery O’Connor and the Language of Apocalypse. Princeton University Press, 2017.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Arguing About Literature: A Guide and Reader, 2nd ed., edited by John Schilb and John Clifford, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 1007-1020.
O’Connor, Flannery. “Good Country People.” Weber State University, 2000. Web.