Presentation on theme: "A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery OConnor A Journey through Her Short Story."— Presentation transcript:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery OConnor A Journey through Her Short Story
T he novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures. Flannery O'Connor
Flannery OConnor Known as both a Southern and a Catholic writer, Flannery O'Connor ( ) wrote stories that are hard to forget. Whether for their humor, brilliant characterization, local color, or shocking plots, Flannery O'Connor's short stories, "in which the voices of displaced persons affirm the grace of God in the grotesqueries of the world," continue to disturb and resonate. As O'Connor said herself, her stories "make [her] vision apparent by shock." (Georgia Women of Achievement, via Internet Public Library)Georgia Women of Achievement
One of O'Connor's most widely read stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (written in 1953), without a doubt is also her most shocking. Yet is it through the story's disturbing ending that O'Connor raises fundamental questions about good and evil, morality and immorality, faith and doubt, and the particularly Southern "binaries" of black and white and Southern history and progress. Fundamental Questions
In this lesson, you will explore these dichotomiesand challenge themwhile closely reading and analyzing "A Good Man is Hard to Find." In the course of studying this particular O'Connor short story, we will learn as well about the 1950s South, including evolving transportation in the U.S.-transportation fueled by the popularity of the family car and the development of the U.S. highway system; the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that helped divide the "Old South" from the "New South"; and the literary genre known as the "Southern Gothic," or "Southern Grotesque." The Destination
The Southern Highway With today's developed highway and interstate system, getting from point A to B in the U.S. makes for a fairly easy and fun "road trip" (that is, if you leave at the right time to avoid traffic!). In the 1950s, by contrast, the U.S.'s highway system was just beginning to take shape, and family sedans were just beginning to reach a middle class market. As a result, family road-trip vacations soon followed. Also, the railroad system was in decline for domestic travel, and air travel was still too expensive for most.
The mood of this 1940s-50s Georgia highway picture is a sense of foreboding that reflects the spirit of the Flannery OConnor story A Good Man is Hard to Find. Image courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress. American Memory
Jump into a 1950s Buick sedan, adjust the radio, and join Bailey and his family for their road trip from Atlanta to Florida [Buick images from the EDSITEment-reviewed Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History's virtual exhibition "America on the Move."]National Museum of American History's"America on the Move."
Keep in mind the following passage from the story as they navigate country roads and 1950s interstates: She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother had gone back to sleep.
Today's starting point? Atlanta. Destination? Florida. Although the family in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" lives in Atlanta, their journey to Florida takes them along the relatively new highways of the 1950s, including rural country roads. The following images of Georgia highways and rural roads can give you a better idea of highway and country road travel. Though these images are from the 1930s and 1940s, the highways and rural roads would have been similar to those described in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."
THE GRANDMOTHER didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here, Bailey," she said, "see here, read this," and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. "Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did."
Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children's mother, a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit's ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar. "The children have been to Florida before," the old lady said. "You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee."
Advertising card, Dar aint no flies on us. Flannery O'Connor is identified as a Southern writer. This section of your journey should prompt you to think about the Old and New South as O'Connor presents "The South" at large throughout "A Good Man is Hard to Find." The 1950s South
"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. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved. "He didn't have any britches on," June Star said. "He probably didn't have any," the grandmother explained. "Little niggers in the country don't have things like we do. If I could paint, I'd paint that picture," she said.
The 1950s South experienced a major turning point in African-American history. Note that 1954 marked both O'Connor's writing of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision to end racial segregation (practices known collectively as "Jim Crow Laws") supported by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case in which the Supreme Court ruled that "racially separate facilities, if equal, did not violate the Constitution." Time for Change
Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education The U.S. Supreme Courts decision in Brown v. Board of Education marked a turning point in the history of race relations in the United States. On May 17, 1954, the Court stripped away constitutional sanctions for segregation by race, and made equal opportunity in education the law of the land. Brown v. Board of Education reached the Supreme Court through the fearless efforts of lawyers, community activists, parents, and students. Their struggle to fulfill the American dream set in motion sweeping changes in American society, and redefined the nations ideals.
While the grandmother's racial views seem outdated and racist to us now, O'Connor's story reflects the complex and difficult relationships of the 1950s South. Change was afoot not only in terms of race, but also in terms of gender, as roles for and stereotypes of women are evolving at this time as well. Change for Women, Too
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children's mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.
Saved Along the Highway: Other Issues in the South Flannery O'Connor once said that, "while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted" [From h/syllabuild/iguide/oconnor.html Via American Studies Web.] (44). h/syllabuild/iguide/oconnor.html
Let's continue our journey through the "Christ-haunted" South. The plot of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" ultimately is about being saved, literally and figuratively, along a rural Southern road. Let's explore images of "Christ-haunted" Georgia from the era between the Depression and WWII. Visit the EDSITEment-reviewed Library of Congress American Memory's "America from the Great Depression to WWII" Collection "America from the Great Depression to WWII"
Observe that historian Ayers describes the South using dichotomies or binaries, contrasting terms such as "democracy and oppression" and "white and black."
Southern history bespeaks a place that is more complicated than the stories we tell about it. Throughout its history, the South has been a place where poverty and plenty have been thrown together in especially jarring ways, where democracy and oppression, white and black, slavery and freedom, have warred. The very story of the South is a story of unresolved identity, unsettled and restless, unsure and defensive. The South, contrary to so many words written in defense and in attack, was not a fixed, known, and unified place, but rather a place of constant movement, struggle, and negotiation. "What We Talk about When We Talk about the South," by Edward Ayers, dean and professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of The Oxford Book of the American South: Testimony, Memory, and Fiction and The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction [via the EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at the University of Virginia's The Literature of the South course syllabus]."What We Talk about When We Talk about the South,"American Studies at the University of VirginiaThe Literature of the South
Humor v. "The Grotesque" Flannery O'Connor's fiction often is labeled as "Southern Gothic" or "Southern Grotesque." Responding to this genre designation, O'Connor's once said that, "anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic" (40).
O'Connor also is considered a humorous writer. Literary critic Mark Steadman of Clemson University (SC) notes that, "Southern humor, like much of the best southern writing in general, has been boisterous and physical, often grotesque, and generally realistic" [From EDSITEment-reviewed Documenting the American South's 'Humor in Literature.'] 'Humor in Literature.'