Influence Of Racism On The Life Of Main Characters
The short stories, “A Good man is Hard to Find,' by Flannery O'Conner and 'A Rose for Emily,' by William Faulkner are two stories that are quite depressing. O’Conner’s piece is about a series of unfortunate events that comprise a family’s road trip, ultimately leading to a grandmother and her family killed by a ruthless murderer and in O’Conner’s story the audience is treated to a story of a lady who kills her husband and proceeds to sleep in the same as the decaying body until her death. By creating stories condemning the protagonists’ nostalgic view of society, irony of social structure, demonstration of racism, and distortion of ethics in the Southern culture, the two authors depict the lifestyle and perspective of two Southern women and how their outlook on society shapes how they live their lives.
Through the use of irony by O’Conner and Faulkner through the two women demonstrate their outlook on the Southern culture. In both of these stories we understand the structure of fortune and superiority during this time period. The lineage of Emily in “A Rose for Emily,” traces back to an upper class part of society and it is expected that she lives this way too. So when the townspeople become aware of a strange odor coming from her house, they begin to question if this connection is true. As we learn, Emily was in a relationship with a man named Homer Barron, a man who was a man from the north who made his living as a day laborer, a societal role that some saw below her family’s class. Together, the two would go out on Sunday afternoon’s and drive Homer’s yellow-wheeled buggy around the town. The townspeople see this relationship and begin to wonder if Emily forgot where she came from and is happy with somebody below her social status. But we learn later that Emily keeps the fact that she is actually living a depressed and isolated life to herself and lives the opposite lifestyle the townspeople expect she does. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother lives her life with the belief that she lives and displays life morals, religious teachings that are better than societal norms. Despite her belief of how she is a “good” person, we find this to be untrue. The grandmother acts as if she lives in a world she grew up in, not one her children live in. Her outlook on the world is based upon a respect and honor system that is not relevant in this day’s society. The grandmother is essentially cut off from the outside world because she does not fit in. So just like Emily, the grandmother, too, lives a life abandoned and depressed and is unable to be happy.
A direct influence of Emily and the grandmother and their Southern culture is racism. As expected during this time period, the two are very prejudice despite slavery being outlawed for many years already. In “A Rose for Emily,” Emily has a housekeeper who is black, and does all the work on the residence, inside and out. Also when Emily goes to the drug store, the vendor makes the Negro delivery boy complete the sale of Arsenic so the vendor would not get in trouble for whatever Emily had planned to use it for. We later learn that she uses the Arsenic to murder her lover. Likewise, in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother acts superior toward blacks during the family’s road trip. The family drives past a little shack house with a colored boy in the doorway and the children notice he is naked, the grandmother responds “He probably didn’t have any. Little ni**ers in the country don’t have things like we do.” The grandmother looks down on colored folk, which creates an arrogance of white people that she chooses to display towards people and situations she feels are inferior to her. Consequently, both O’Conner and Faulkner criticize their protagonists for participating in acts of racism.
The grandmother and Emily live by a moral code that determines how they act and perceive right and wrong, because of this they demonstrate the distortion of ethics in the South. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother’s moral code is one that is built on inconsistent characteristics that makes people “good.” While on the road the family stops at a Red Sammy’s Famous Barbeque for sandwiches. After speaking with Red Sam, she learns that he trusts people blindly and wishes more people respected that. Because of his old-school approach, he is a “good” man in her eyes. But when faced with The Misfit she adopts the idea that he is “good” because she thinks that he will not kill a lady. Unfortunately for her, her assumption was wrong and she was killed by The Misfit. The grandmother’s skewed reality proves to be fatal when she tries to follow her Southern moral compass. In “A Rose for Emily,” Emily implements her own rules and behavior, for instance, when she refused to pay her taxes or state her reasoning for purchasing the poisonous arsenic. Emily also refuses to change with the times by declining to put numbers on her home when the federal mail service is put in effect. Her lack of compliance proceeds to get worse when she later kills her lover before he has the chance to abandon her. As a result of their distorted outlook, the grandmother and Emily were unable identify what ultimately is right and wrong.
The post-WWI era was a time of depression and fraud for the Southern culture. Many Southerners’ outlook on the world became altered and felt they needed to act in a way to protect the old culture. Flannery O’Conner through “A Good Man is Hard To Find,” and William Faulkner in “A Rose for Emily,’ create stories condemning the protagonists’ nostalgic view of society, irony of social structure, demonstration of racism, and distortion of ethics in the Southern culture.