Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other StoriesI wanted something short and simple to read today, so I picked up my collection of Flannery O'Connor stories and chose one.  I also chose a story by Flannery O'Connor because of my Flannery O'Connor Reading Challenge I have going on.

(This is a summary in my words)

An Atlanta family decides to take a trip to Florida against the grandmother's wishes, who desires to go to Tennessee instead.  After driving for awhile, the family stops to have lunch where the grandmother engages the restaurant owner in a discussion of a local escaped convict known as The Misfit.  The restaurant owner and grandmother come to the conclusion that a good man is hard to find.

Back on the road to Florida, the grandmother remembers, and tells the children a story of, a house she used to visit with hidden compartments in the wall that hid the family's silver during the Civil War.  Excited, the children begin begging to go see the house.  Bailey, the father, is angry towards the grandmother for starting this delay in their trip and reluctantly agrees to turn around to head down a dirt road to the house.

While riding down the road, the grandmother recalls the house she remembers so vividly was in Tennessee and not Georgia.  This thought embarasses her so much that she turns red and her legs "jump out" upsetting the basket her cat was in.  The cat then jumps onto Bailey's neck (who is driving) causing him to have an accident that throws his wife and baby out of the passenger's door onto the road.  Thankfully, everyone's okay and begins to assess their situation hoping to find some help with getting their car out of the gulch it has landed in.

What arrives is not their help, but The Misfit himself.

My Review:

Usually when you hear the phrase "A good man is hard to find" you think of finding a good man for a relationship.  Well, Flannery O'Connor has taken that saying to a whole new level.  I respect, and am in awe of, people who can take a saying that is so widely used and give it a spin to create their own version.  That is true talent.

The grandmother's self-righteous attitude got on my nerves, just like it did her family.  The children were a little smart-mouthed and should've been corrected and told to respect their elders, but the parents never disciplined them for talking back ... which surprised me since they lived in the South, a place known for manners and southern hospitality.

I've read reviews that stated this story had religious overtones.  That can be true ... the grandmother, who wasn't a good woman, was hypocritical and selfish and didn't find true redemption until the end ... which is usually when people want to acknowledge their God, Savior, etc.  Only when people are in a terrible situation do they truly realize how much they need their faith in a higher entity.  They need that faith that there is something more than this life.  They need that forgiveness and purity that can only come from someone higher and purer than they.  It's amazing how people can see that so clearly at the end of their lives, but push it aside for so long while they're alive ... like they're invincible.

So, while it's true that a good man was hard to find in this story (i.e. A rude son, a smart-mouthed and disrespectful grandson and an escaped convicted murderer/felon) it is also true that a good woman was just as hard to find.

Overall this story was compelling, thought-provoking and expertly told.  It's no wonder that Flannery O'Connor rose to popularity so quickly.

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