Imagine Of Moral Hypocrisy In Flannery O’Conner's Story
The experiences and interactions one has with the surrounding world often shape his or her internal moral values. These values are manipulated in a way to reflect what one sees as the truth. The issue here is that sometimes they are altered in a negative light which is problematic to an individual’s perception as it leads to blinded judgements and actions. When this happens, a narcissistic behavior takes over and prevents an accurate depiction of what the truth is. The only way to reverse this effect is by facing a traumatic experience which causes an immediate reevaluation of beliefs. In A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner, this shift in a corrupted mindset is exemplified by the grandmother who discovers the truth in the face of death.
Flannery O’Conner uses the grandmother as a manifestation of society’s injustices during the Jim Crow-era. During this era, society was fractured on the basis of both race and class. Black Americans faced adversity under the system created by white Americans, many of whom were religious in “morals”. How can one support segregation and live religiously without being hypocritical? To answer that question, Flannery O’Conner expresses this moral hypocrisy through the so-called “faithful” and “superior” grandmother. There are many questionable instances where the grandmother transgresses judgements and actions. The most blatant instances are her episodes of racist behaviors, often portrayed in a “comical” fashion. When passing by a cotton field full of graves, the grandmother identifies it as former slave plantation that has “Gone with the Wind” (6). Her remembrance of past experience blinds her from the truth, and her reference to “Gone with the Wind” suggests that the “moral” past she misses is contingent on racism and slavery. Another example of this racist mindset occurs when the grandmother gives a story of a black child who “saw the initials, E.A.T.!” (7) on a watermelon and ate it. Not only is this stereotypical, but also wrongful as she paints the child as a “comical” figure who doesn’t understand anything. She makes the assumption that because of his skin color, he doesn’t have the capacity to understand. This expected of her as she lives in a society that corrupts and blinds the minds of its people with racist beliefs.
Every character maintains a moral value, regardless of hypocrisy. This governs their judgements and actions when it comes to facing people, events, and ideas. The question of what makes a “good man” prompts the grandmother’s mind as she finds it hard to truly identify one. According to her, “People are certainly not nice like they used to be” (9). Perhaps, she finds that it was easier to identify a good man during the time of slavery because everyone’s morals aligned with hers. To that point, how could she make those judgements on what a “good man” is when her perception of the world is clouded by corrupt and racist beliefs? To put it simply, she can’t accurately depict the truth. She thinks narrow-mindedly and disregards everyone else but herself.
The one time where she experiences true reality occurs when she stands in the face of death. All of her beliefs of the world are challenged when the Misfit poses a threat to her family. At first, she does not take him seriously and says that “You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” (18). She assumes that this man, who is violent by nature, would not hurt her or her family and is a good man by heart. Little does she know that he exists to fulfill his own pleasures and desires, not hers. The question of what makes a “good man” becomes present as the Misfit’s worldview clashes against the grandmother’s narrow-minded and selfish morals. What is ironic is how she instantly calls out to Jesus to save her and the Misfit. This is hypocritical in the sense that she didn’t live in conjunction with religion and its morals as she maintained a racist outlook. However, she undergoes a change, a moment of goodness, where she forgives the Misfit for all of his wrongdoings and accepts that he is present. The shift of understanding truth and turning good occurs the grandmother is no longer living.