Characterize the Grandmother in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard To Find”
In O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’, the Grandmother is playing the role of the key character. The entire plot of this short story revolves around the appearance, speech, actions and thoughts of the Grandmother. This character exudes an aura of being egotistic, careless, racist and deceitful. These prominent characteristics of the Grandmother can be realized by her thoughts and actions; she is also a hypocrite, there is a stark difference in her inner feelings an outward behavior, which gradually unfolds the entire plot of hypocrisy in the story.
The Grandmother’s key quality is self-obsession with her own self. In the beginning of the story she expresses the desire to visit Tennessee and not Florida. For instance, “The grandmother didnt 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 Baileys mind.” (OConnor 351) This is reflective of not just her narcissism but also of her hypocrite behavior. She even manipulates her son by discussing the perils of travelling to Florida where the dangerous criminal Misfit is at loose. But, as she fails to convince the family, she doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to travel and thus, accompanies them on the trip nonetheless. Her eagerness to travel can be understood by June Star’s statement, “She wouldnt stay at home for a million bucks…afraid shed miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.” (OConnor 351)
Furthermore, the Grandmother is more concerned about her possessions; for instance, the cat and takes it along on the trip, even though she knew that her son doesn’t approve of it. One could understand the Grandmother’s careless ways by, “She didnt intend for the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of her gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey, didnt like to arrive at a motel with a cat.” (OConnor 351) Hence, her own desires and selfishness would let her act on her instincts. Similarly, the family’s tragic end took place because the Grandmother insisted, against her son Bailey’s desires that she wanted to relish her childhood memories and visit an old house. “She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing.” (O’Connor 351) Then as the Misfit’s cronies are killing her family members, she pretends to care for her family but being a hypocrite does not plead to Misfit for their lives; and begs only for her own life: “You wouldnt shoot a lady, would you?” the grandmother said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and began to slap at her eyes with it. (OConnor 351)
Besides this, the Grandmother was also a very racist person. During her trip, she mocks over the poor black child the family comes across. She expresses her racially prejudiced behavior by calling that poor Black child “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldnt that make a picture, now?” (O’Connor 351) This prejudice was also evident when she recalls her story of the watermelon which she suspected was stolen by a “nigger” child; perhaps because stereotypes perceive blacks to be thieves such as the Grandmother imagines. “she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T. !” (O’Connor 351)
In addition, the Grandmother has even proven to be a dishonest and deceitful person in every single aspect of the story. Instead of going on a trip to Florida she wants to visit her relatives in Tennessee and so she is being deceitful when she lies to her son that why they all should visit Tennessee and not Florida. “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.” (O’Connor 351) Likewise, the Grandmother is being dishonest and deceitful when she is cunningly persuading the family to visit the old house. She lures her grandchildren to visit the house by saying “There was a secret-panel in this house,” she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, “and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . .” (OConnor 351) Finally, when the Misfit is busy killing her family. The Grandmother tries to flatter him that he is a good man and how he must believe in Jesus and Salvation. She uses this tactic hoping that the Misfit would not kill him. “Listen,” she said, “you shouldnt call yourself The Misfit because I know youre a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.” (OConnor 351) But the criminal does not fall into her hypocritical plans and subsequently kills her as well.
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard To Find.