Mary Flannery O`Connor ("A Good Man is Hard to Find"), wasbrought up in a strict catholic home. At 26 she was diagnosed withLupus (the same disease that killed her father when she was 15 yrsold). She never married. Lupus is a painful disease and pain causessome people to be angry. Her Catholic upbringing would not allow herto express she was mad at God for taking her father and for thedisease. I believe all of these emotions were expressed in herstories. The question I plan to answer "Are O`Connor`s darkending (gothic) stories a reflection of her strict Catholicupbringing and her Auto Immune disorder (Lupus), causing her to beangry and never seeing good triumph over evil."
To answer this question, I chose to look at O’Connor’s life andthe short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which I read severaltimes to have a better grasp of the content. Having made note of allthe important aspects in the story that I would use to develop anessay, I set out to identify other resources that address the work ofO`Connor in general and those that specifically cover the story “AGood Man is Hard to Find”. Thinking about what I wanted to writeabout before setting out to write was critical. I brainstormed andexamined several potential approaches to the research. I chose tolook at aspects in the story that highlights O’Connor’s beliefthat human beings are inherently sinners and that life is unfair.Taking this approach meant seeking sources that have the sameapproach.
I started out my search for relevant resources at the SCF library. Iused a different combination of keywords and phrases to locate theresources. The dominant phrase were “O’Connor’s beliefs”,“meaning of life” “God”, “religion”, “catholic”,“southern”, “gothic”, and “Auto Immune disorder”. Thesearch yielded over a hundred articles and books written by differentauthors. I narrowed down the results to fifteen articles based onexamining the title. I scanned or read the abstracts of thesearticles and settled for five. This was in keeping with theinstructions to use academic sources only.
However, I also carried out a research over the internet. Thenon-academic sources on the topic such as from Wikipedia provided mewith some background knowledge on O’Connor as a Christian and as awriter. It also provided me with information on how to approach thetopic and support the claim made by the thesis and also on ways ofwriting I-search essays. Informed by this, I chose to compare thelives of the characters in the short story with the O’Connor’slife.
To begin, with the story about Bailey and his family portrays them asstrict, mean and cold while the grandmother is warm-hearted and good.I feel that the intention of the author was to show the unfairness oflife itself in that the good people are always at a loss in the handsof mean and sometimes evil people. This theme is not unique in thisparticular short story but“many of her (O’Connor) short stories feature violence beinginflicted upon either a young, secular, educated atheist or a proud,elderly, religiously facile matriarch” (O’Connell p. 352).It can be presumed that the author pictured herself as the religiousfacile matriarch of her family. Though she never had a family of herwon, O’Connor was close to several friends and even related withsome via writing letters (Dyer). The struggles that the grandmotherwent through in the story in relating with the kids and her son anddaughter in law represent her real struggles in life. She had tobalance her work or writing, believe in the fairness and love of Godand still be persistently disappointed.
For instance, O’Connor believes that God is there to intervene inlife but fails to do so which somehow rocked her faith and beliefs inGod. In the same manner, the grandmother believed that God wascapable of intervening in the situation with the Misfit. This momentof desperation and unanswered prayers is representative of O’Connor’slife in general. She happened to watch her father struggle with adisease which would also plague her later. At the time his fatherwent down with lupus, there was no medication and one can only assumethat prayer and intervention from the Almighty was sought ferventlygiven the family’s religious background ( Dyer 2007). However, inthe end, the father succumbed to the illness in what O’Connor musthave interpreted as being abandoned by God in the hour of need.
The same idea of being abandoned is narrated trough the grandmotherwho believed that God would intervene. She tried to make the Misfitsee the good in life and himself which she failed desperately. Shebelieved that the Misfits had a good and bad side in him and she madeattempts to rouse the good in order to triumph over the evil side inhim. The same contest between good and evil is also seen in herconversations with the kids who always rudely silence her without theintervention of their parents. This element of desperation andabandonment is also present in how Bailey and his wife have abandonedinstilling manners in their young children and especially how theyrelate with their grandmother.
Furthermore, O’Connor reflects on her life through the character ofthe grandmother. She readily shows how nice the lady was to the kidswho were very rude to her. However, the Misfit redefines what itmeans to be a good person. After shooting the grandmother, the misfitsays of her “She would have been a good woman if it had beensomebody there to shoot her every minute of her life" (O’Connor2015). This captures the life of O’Connor who was being shot atdaily in the last days of her life by her illness which made her agood woman (O`Donnell, 2015). To me this means that for a mortalhuman being, pain is a necessity that makes us human and keeps uscloser to God. Several authors who have commented on her work andlife denote O’Connor’s desire for humbleness and a life devoid ofpride.
For instance, Pelaez () notes that O’Connor was keen to fight prideand avoid success getting into her and affect her relationship withGod. She claimed that she wanted to be “intelligently holy” andeven described her soul to be in a state of mediocre. This was at atime when she had published several short stories and her work hadgained considerable attention in the world of literature. The PrayerJournal (Palaez, 2014, p. 42) also cites the words of O’Connor whowrote “I want to love God all the way. At the same time I want allthe things that seem opposed to it- I want to be a fine writer. Anysuccess will tend to swell my head- unconsciously even.” This justshows how dedicated O’Connor was to her belief in God (Waters2004).
In conclusion, it is only proper to say that I believe that O’Connorequated her illness as a reminder that she was mortal. She hadindicated that pain brings mortals closer to God. Facing evil or thebad constantly meant that would need God in order to triumph overevil. Furthermore, her christen up-bringing had taught her that humanbeings are born sinners. She talks of the need to love God and liveaccording to the wishes of God as taught by Christianity but shefeared her work as a writer would hinder that journey. In the longrun, she thus perceived the death of her father and her afflationwith lupus as a sign that God was trimming her which can also beinterpreted as God abandoning her as she shows through the characterof the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” in the finalmoments.
Dyer, Candice. Agood friend is hard to find. 2007. Web.
O`Donnell, AngelaAlaimo. "A litany for flannery." America 23 Mar. 2015: 33.Biography in
Context. Web. 30July 2015.
O’Connell,Michael. Getting to "judgment day`: Flannery O’Connor’sRepresentation of personal
O’Connor.Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find
Palaez, Jill. Theprayer journal. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. N.d. Web.
Waters, Jen. EternalO`Connor Author`s work endures 40 years after her death. Web.2000