Flannery O'Connor'S Idea Of A Good Man In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

Flannery O'Connor's short story “A Good Man Is Hard to find” presents the complexity of human life by telling a story of a family trip that turned brutal. Ideally, it is challenging to understand the nature of human beings. The story strives to help people understand the concept of a “good man” which, as presented by the author, is controversial just like the nature of man. Flannery O'Connor's idea of a good man seems to revolve around Christian realism, ethics and internal character. People have different views and beliefs in life which influence their perceptions about others and life in general. The concept of a good man continues to create hot debate, particularly in ethics in a quest to understand the definition of a good person. Do good men exist is a significant question which the author does not answer but instead allows the reader to perceive a good man independently. The complexity of human nature makes it difficult to certainly describe a good man because goodness is relative and dependent on people’s beliefs and perceptions.

O’Connor’s idea of a good man focuses on the dualities of good and evil. The story uses grandmother and Red Sam to explain what makes a good man. Ideally, the goodness depends on a persons both internal and external characters which can be evaluated using social norms that specifies the good and the bad. However, as argued by Rea (194), O’Connor’s differs from typical understanding of goodness to suggest that it depends on something else. For example, Grandmother believes that to be good a person must be honest, polite and respectful. Gale (7) says that Grandmothers obsession and connection to appearance and the irresistible desire to be a good lady depicts that goodness depends on other people's perceptions. The story uses grandmother to pinpoint the controversial attribute of goodness by depicting her contrary to what she believes of herself. According to Hani (343), grandmother is hypocritical and does not care about the safety of her family. The ultimate demise of her family originates from her hypocrisy which compels her to misguide them towards the mysterious house. Her reckless insults contradicts her strong belief that to be good a man you must be respectful. The woman is manipulative, dishonest and blatantly hypocritical, using double standards to evaluate goodness (Rea 193). She is quick to notice other people mistakes. She is quick to command morality from June Star “Aren’t you ashamed?” (O'Connor 196) but does not take personal shame in her insults “Little n*ggers in the country don't have things like we do (O'Connor 194). From mainstream social norms, being good meaning being caring and loving others, virtues that Grandmother does not possess. In the face of Misfit, her selfishness is depicted when she cries begging for her life. “You wouldn’t shoot a lady” (O'Connor 198). Evidently, people have diverse views, beliefs and perceptions which influence their reaction and contact towards other making it difficult to identify a good man.

The author makes a deep dive into philosophy and religion in attempts to understand goodness and evil. The story suggests that being good or evil is a personal interest which may be controlled through exposure to grace and violence. As noted by Rea (201) the grandmother and her family member are blind to morality and their actions are influenced by personal interests. Arguably, we all have a moral responsibility towards others and being hypocritical is ethically perceived to be wrong and evil. According to Gale (12), truthfulness in our actions is a manifestation of moral thoughts and a demonstration of commitment to be good. Human beings are naturally complicated and often fake ignorance to deviate from their moral obligation to goodness. O’Connor’s searches in Christianity to explain the connection between goodness and religion and the extent to which Christianity may be applied in pursuit of goodness. Vala (223), uses catholic traditions to explain that religion brings people to their moments of grace setting them on the path of goodness. The author complicates the initial conception of a good man when he says “She would been a good woman ... if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (191). The story implies that exposure to violence and physical pain has the potential to change people's behavior, place them in their moments of grace and eventually guide them into being good people. According to Vala (225), O’Connor’s perception of goodness goes from internal and external traits to a spiritual form which man is limited to discern. The incompatibility between violence and grace makes it difficult to understand the difference between the right and the wrong hence the concept of a good man cannot be established confidently..

The story explores theme of forgiveness and punishment adding on to the concept of goodness, forcing the reader to question more than being good and bad. Based on social constructs, evil is punished to bring bad people into their moment of grace. Also, the act of forgiveness is demonstration of one’s willingness to pursue goodness. Hani (331) says that O’Connor evokes a controversial question whether forgiveness and punishment makes one a Goodman. The conversation between Grandmother and Misfit reveals that Misfit punishment did not lead to the implied grace since he does not remember why he was imprisoned. As pointed by Gale (15), there is unclear connection between goodness and punishment because sometimes punishments are unjustifiable. Hani (335) rejects the power of forgiveness and punishment in shaping human behavior due to absence of standards measures to weigh the intensity of punishment and forgiveness. The grandmother’s family is killed because she recognized Misfit’s face which was ultimately a grave mistake.. “You're The Misfit....I recognized you at once” (199) is a mistake that could be corrected with forgiveness but instead it was met with immense violence and evil. Having recently escaped from the prison, Misfit perhaps perceived himself as a bad man. The Misfit’s actions depicts that being a good man depends on our personal interests and perception of the world. As Flannery (201) states, “the beautiful thing to do in world enjoys one's days causing violence and turmoil”. Vala (226) observes that the world is itself explicitly evil and goodness can thrive in it. Looking at the scenario from a Christian standpoint, O'Connor believes that forgiveness is divinely powerful to the bad and the evil. The ability to transform bad to good is given a spiritual focus. The encounter with her moment of grace compels grandmother to forgive Misfit for killing her family and even threatening to kill her. From a Christian point of view, forgiveness gives a person inner peace and composure which changes their perceptions about the wrong and right. Such strong beliefs and actions are difficult to find in people.

The short story argues that immorality has deprived the world of its good men but does explain the change in human nature that caused the decline of morality. Hani (340) observes that it is challenging to accept or refute Grandmother’s argument that previously it was easy to find good men because understanding the nature of goodness is itself a puzzle. According to Rea (257), O'Connor uses theme of moral decay to present two diverging societies, a traditional society whose kindness has been brutally devoured by modern nihilism. Red Sam agrees that society has changed and insecurity increased compared to the past years. As argued by Vala (227), the moral decay in modern society is perpetuated by human individualism and the control of power. Ideally, modern men withdraw power from competition making them defenseless and controllable. Misfit’s killings are triggered by lack of traditional morals which emphasize on kindness and respect. Gale (18) says that Misfit’s evil is evident in the manner he kills the family. The troublesome Bailey is killed first leaving the entire family defenseless and entirely vulnerable. The violent act of The Misfit are triggered by perceived lack of respect from Grandmother and Bailey. Besides morality, the act of forgiving The Misfit seems to have emotional touch on his perception of goodness. He says “It’s no real pleasure in life” (142) which suggests that despite being a bad man he was ready to change and be a good man. The assumption that absence of good men is due to moral decay does not present a logical connection between goodness and morality.

The story has widely explored the complexity of human beings and limitations to understand human nature and its connection with goodness. As illustrated there is not definite and precise approach in which the concept of goodness can be understood without going into the nature of human beings. The author raises social constructs to state that absolute goodness does not exist in the modern evil world where people are increasingly selfish, petty and obsessed with vagueness. In addition, the inability to establish what being evil is makes it harder to find out what being a good man actually is. The dive into religious faith and forgiveness illustrated that goodness is relative to a person's beliefs and perceptions of the world. The act of forgiveness is delicate, requiring strict faith and action which are rare among typical people

The reversal in this case is very spread out and because of this the recognition doesn’t occur simultaneously with the reversal, it happens in between the two parts of the reversal, if the story was written where the reversal was more of a unit rather than two separate events then the recognition could happen simultaneously, the reversal being so spread out ultimately leads to it being moderately ineffective as a reversal, because a recognition cannot happen simultaneously with this reversal. The recognition occurs on page 1101 when Creon says “Oh it is hard to give in! But it is worse to risk everything for stubborn pride” (Antigone 1101.) This quote is where he acknowledges that he was ignorant however, Creon says “give in” which suggests that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but only just now decides to change his mind and do the right thing. He never went from ignorance to knowledge, he went from ignoring the truth to accepting the truth. Regarding plot Antigone is erratic, the reversal even though it occurs, is moderately ineffective because of its structure, and the recognition doesn’t really occur because

Creon was never ignorant, he simply ignored the truth and facts, until he finally decided to comply with the reality of the situation. With this it can be concluded that regarding simple and complex plot Antigone does technically have a complex plot, however it is a very bad complex plot, this aids in the eventual outcome of Antigone being moderately low in its effective as a tragedy according to Aristotle’s Poetics.

The character Antigone defies everything that Aristotle’s Poetics claims a woman can do and be. Aristotle says referring to goodness that women and slaves can be good however they are inferior to an average man (Aristotle Poetics 8.1.) Goodness is needed in tragedy to create the feelings of pity and fear when something bad happens, for example if a good character ends up dying people would feel pity because a character like that doesn’t deserve death. Antigone shows goodness on page 1071 when she says, “But I will bury him: and if I must die, I say that the crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me” (Antigone 1071.) This means that she doesn’t care if she dies, because she knows that is the right thing to do, this also suggests at Antigone being courageous, she knows that she could die by fulfilling her brother’s proper burial, and yet she does it anyways.

According to Aristotle's Poetics women cannot be as courageous as men (Aristotle Poetics 8.1.) Despite being a female Antigone displays goodness and courageousness at the level that men should only be allowed to, this makes a bad female character according to Aristotle's Poetics. Antigone as a character adds confusion to the story she does not conform with Aristotle’s Poetics and is out of place for a woman character in a Greek tragedy, because of her levels of goodness and courage she ultimately is a bad character that makes the story not comply with the Poetics, this is a major reason why the Story Antigone effectiveness as a tragedy is moderately low.

Even though Antigone lacks in some areas, the structure of Antigone plot is the most effective that it can be. Aristotle explains in section 7.2 of the poetics that, the character which the tragedy revolves around should be male, they should be respected, morally average, their downfall is caused by a mistake rather than moral defect, their fortune goes from good to bad, and typically based around a household. Antigone has a character like this which is Creon, Creon's character is the perfect example of all the things Aristotle listed, he is in a family of respected royals, he is morally average, and his downfall is caused by need for order not moral defect, and he goes from a king that has everything to a king with no will to live and no family, therefore the structure of Antigone’s plot meets Aristotle’s Poetics standards of the best structure of a tragedy. The structure of Antigone’s plot is what makes the effectiveness of Antigone not all the way ineffective, because of its perfect structure it adds to the effectiveness as a tragedy according to Aristotle poetics.

To conclude Sophocles Antigone effectiveness as a tragedy is moderately low, this is because of character and parts of the plot. Regarding simple and complex plot Antigone is the worst kind of complex plot, however structurally Antigone has the best kind of tragedy structure. On the other hand, Antigone as a character is not good, her courage and goodness at the levels that they are is not allowed for a female. Overall Antigone’s ineffective components out way the effective ones, this leads to the conclusion that Antigone's effectiveness as a tragedy is moderately low according to Aristotle’s Poetics. This leaves the question if Antigone wasn’t being graded according to the Poetics, but rather just to today's standards would it be an effective tragedy?

" 2020-08-17 18:26:19

31 August 2020
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