Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Short Story Review: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor


‘A Good Man is hard to find’ is one of the stories written by Flannery O’Connor written in 1953, and was first published in her short story collection in 1955. Ever since, it has been regarded as one of the best works of O’Connor in short fiction. The story depicts all the features that the author is recognized for. The characters sketched have a blend of violence as well as humor and care. Most importantly, the story reflects the author’s devout beliefs and firm faith in Roman Catholicism. The writing is both thought provoking, as well as, witty, which is a common attribute amongst many other works of O’Connor, such as “The Violent Bear it away” and “Wise Blood”.

O’Connor starts the story in an innocent and light-hearted manner, showing traditional fight between siblings, grandmother’s stories and father’s unresponsiveness. The main character is introduced towards end, called “the Misfit”. O’Connor uses this character to explore the concept of “grace” in Christianity. It involves that divine forgiveness from God is there for anyone and everyone who asks for it. The author depicts the character of grandmother as a despicable, arrogant and hateful person and shows how she receives the divine grace, when she tries to touch the Misfit at the time of her death, exclaiming that he is her own child.
O’Connor uses the method of "buried action" that is offstage violence, and handles it as cleverly as Chekhov used in his plays. This technique is shown when Bailey along with his son, John Wesley is taken beyond the woods. Then, the reader hears two pistol shots and left at the mercy of one’s own imagination. This mode of buried action is repeated in the next few pages, when Bailey's wife, infant and his daughter, June Star, are also behind the bushes. In the main scene, the Misfit is narrating his story of giving himself a new identity to the grandmother, while offstage; there is a sharp scream and a shot. Then, there is another exchange of dialogue in the main scene, and then two more shots in the back. The horrors are not shown directly, but the reader perceives scene as brutal and dreadful as he or she can withstand. At this moment, no one can judge that how effective is the use of "buried action" in this story? But at the time of reading, it depends on the reader’s perception how he captures it in mind.
‘A Good Man is hard to find’ is a complex story that takes into account the sensitive and critical aspects concerning the importance of morals and values in human life, as well as, divine grace that the author claims everyone can ask for. However, to my personal observations, I would add only that I have trouble accepting the well-worn reading of The Misfit as an instrument of Catholic grace. For me, there is no compelling religious or even spiritual vision in this narrative, on the basis of any religion including Christianity, Judaism or Islam. It neither includes anything related to religion, nor it has any good example of ‘Grace’ or divine forgiveness. It is just a story with a good show of buried action.

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