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What are the motivations of the murderer in “A Good Man is Hard To Find”?


Motivations of the murderers In many societies and cultures murder is listed among the most serious crimes. For this reason, individuals, provided they are not mentally disturbed, are believed to have some kind of motivation when they decide to take other people’s lives. Very often those motivations include the desire to prove one’s importance or beliefs.

In this view Misfit, the character of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, is the example of the murderer who sees himself as a wronged man. Even thought little information about the criminal’s past is given in the story, it can be inferred that Misfit’s motivation to kill is his wish to prove his point to society, try to find his place in life and answer the questions religion poses.

On the one hand, he neither denies his crimes, with the only exception of the murder of his father, nor sees himself as a virtuous person or thinks that his prison sentence was a mistake. On the other hand, he believes that no matter what crime he commits, the punishment would not fit it, it would be worse than the crime: “I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it” (O’Connor 194). Misfit does not feel guilty; he believes that society is always on the lookout for new victims who would take the blame for its flaws and suffer. He is sure that “somebody is always after you”. Hence Misfit likens himself to Jesus Christ: “It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me” (O’Connor 195). Another motivation Misfit has to commit murders is his desire to “to know why it is”, and the question that puzzles the murderer is whether Jesus Christ could raise the dead. Misfit is frustrated because he could not witness the instances described in the Bible. So if he admitted that Jesus Christ could raise the dead, it would make him a believer. However, it would also lessen the graveness of the murders he committed and make any punishment seem unfair. In this view, the victims would just make a transition to eternity; they would not be deprived of their precious lives. If Misfit admitted that raising the dead never occurred, it would mean that human life is meaningless and unimportant, so the motivation for the murders would be the pleasure they give him. In a way, the main motivation to commit murders is Misfit’s attempt to define himself in the world.

The desire to prove one’s significance and importance becomes the motivation of the executioners, namely Jeremiah Donovan, in Guest of the Nation. From the beginning of the short story Donovan sees his role with the prisoners as a position of authority; he “supervises” and “watches” their games, “shouts” when he gets excited (O’Connor 52). On other occasions Donovan is hardly ever paid attention to, he is slow, clumsy and insignificant, both his fellows and captive soldiers make fun of his accent. But as soon as the idea of murder enters his mind, Donovan begins to undergo a change. Donovan no longer just mumbles, but starts speaking in a tone of authority as the narrator accounts he “didn’t like the tone he (Donovan) took with me” (O’Connor 54). Donovan lets himself believe that the motivation for execution is his duty; he has no choice but to shoot the prisoners as a reprisal. The narrator is slightly skeptical of such motivation even though he shares it as he points out: “(Donovan) begins on the usual rigmarole about duty and how unpleasant it is. I never noticed that people who talk a lot about duty find it much of a trouble to them” (O’Connor 56). However, the true motivation for the executioners, especially Donovan, who eventually does the shooting, is the pleasure of having power over other people’s lives. As he announces the news to the captives, Donovan is “shaking with excitement” (O’Connor 56). He is the one that never lets the conversation between the captives and their executioners take a friendly turn, he is focused solely on the murder. What is more, the execution would be significant to the executioners: “I wouldn’t like it to go beyond ourselves” (O’Connor 55). In this view, the enemy might never learn about the reprisal, and.

Despite all the difference between the characters and settings of the stories A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Guest of the Nation there are certain similarities between the motivations of the murders in the writings. Both Misfit and Donovan see the murders as pleasure and a chance to prove themselves. However, this pleasure is of different nature. For Misfit the pleasure lies in the ability to take his revenge on society for the wrongs he suffered or might suffer. What is more, for him killing other people is linked to the attempt to resolve theological question concerning eternal life and its value. For Donovan the pleasure in the execution lies in the ability to assume authority and become significant by fulfilling his duty.

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