Organized Religion in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

Organized Religion in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
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One of America’s most distinguished Flannery O’Connor, weaves a sad but interesting story of a small family who are pitted against three deadly criminals. Though O’Connor is often misunderstood where her controversial writing is concerned, yet she was one of the most promising writers during her time. She left behind a rich legacy of extremely effective and remarkable literature, though her life came to a close at the young age of 39. In describing the author, Melissa stated that “She frequently created grotesque Southern characters, depicted violent situations and wrote with acerbic wit” (Melissa Simpson, “A Biography on Flannery O’Connor)

The story begins with the family planning a holiday trip to Florida but granny had different ideas to go instead to Tennessee. She was so stubborn and she wanted to have her own way. She told her son Bailey, “Here this fellow that calls himself the “Misfit” is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed towards 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”1. O’Connor makes use of the stubborn grandmother character to represent a “Christian woman in a comic sort of way. Though outwardly she shows off that she is a good Christian, in actuality she is more obstinate and selfish when it comes to what she wants.

The Misfit doesn’t seem human at all and is shown in sharp contrast to the grandmother where religious belief is concerned, because the Misfit doesn’t seem to feel or react to any of the good Christian teachings granny used while pleading with him. He was a heartless beast with no value for human life who also sent Bailey and his son with one of his men to be taken care of in the woods. When he comes back, the others are sent with him to the woods and granny is left all alone with the Misfit who doesn’t seemed to be moved at all by granny’s encouragement that he can still change because Jesus loves him so much.

She takes on a religious stance by trying to incite or kindly just that speck of God in the heart of the Misfit by begging him to change to her way of thinking and ask God’s forgiveness for all his wrong doings. But whatever the grandmother said did not seem to affect the Misfit in anyway because did not have a good Christian upbringing and hence did not care about God or things related to faith or religion. Though the grandmother claimed to be a good Christian, her claim was only skin – deep and there was nothing so religious or Christian like about her. She had a kind of surface faith that she beckoned only when she wanted it, but in actuality she was a poor Christian.

The theological interlude comes to an end when the Misfit callously tells her that there is pleasure in meanness and shoots her in cold blood, without any remorse. O’Connor has deftly handled the delicate issue of religion, by crossing the boundaries of the faithful and the faithless and redefines the inner meaning of believing in a faith and truth that is at a much higher level. In the very last moments just before the grandmother could die, the Misfit explains about his lack of religion and in so doing, he brings a new understanding of the grandmother’s own faith.

A Good Man is Hard to Find