The symbolical use of religion in Flannery OConnors A Good Man is Hard to Find
19 January The Symbolical Use of Religion in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find FlanneryO’Connor, one of the most celebrated American writers, often uses God and religion as mediums for communicating her ideas to the audience. A Good Man is Hard to Find is one of her most popular short stories. It narrates the saga of a family, consisting of a grandmother, her son, his wife and three of their children, going on a trip that finally ends up in their unfortunate execution by a convict at large. Overall, the story projects the selfishness of humans and their lack of empathy for fellow beings. It emphasizes the need for spirituality and to recognize God’s grace, His love and thus understand the connection between other humans as fellow beings. In order to portray this profound theme, O’Connor symbolically deploys religion and illustrates the weakness of her selfish protagonist, who finally connects with another human when she confronts death. Right from the beginning of the story, the author hints at the Grandmother’s character as being selfish. She dislikes the idea of traveling to Florida but wants to visit some of her connections in East Tennessee and, therefore, she draws her son’s attention to a newspaper report relating to an escaped convict who calls himself The Misfit (O’Connor 31). Besides, the old woman is too judgmental about the convict and says that she will not take her children in any direction with a criminal like that loose in it (31). Her concern rather than stemming from the consideration of the children’s safety seems to derive from attaining her personal goals. Similarly, all the other characters remain engaged with their needs or wants and show no real connection among one another. Thus, by symbolically presenting personal motivations of these characters the author portrays their lack of empathy. O’Connor further illustrates the vanity of the grandmother, which is against the tenets of religion and spirituality, through her noting the car’s mileage so that she can boast of it to her friends when she returns from the trip. Similarly, she adorns herself with apparels so that in the case of an accident people who find her dead on the road will immediately recognize that she was a lady (33). She also seems to eschew spirituality in her attitude as she warns her son not to drive over the speed of fifty-five miles an hour not out of concern for safety of the family but out of fear of the patrolmen hiding in wait behind billboards and clumps of trees (33). Thus, she is not averse to the idea of sinning but abhors the concept of being punished for the wrong. Again, when June Star tells Red Sam’s wife that she would never live in a broken down place like this, instead of reprimanding the child for impoliteness, the grandmother asks the former whether she is not ashamed (38.). This conduct further symbolizes her vanity. O’Connor deftly uses many such symbols in the story to connote the old woman’s lack of spirituality and empathy to humans. However, the author’s dexterity in the use of symbolism becomes most evident towards the end of the story, where death becomes the symbol of a human’s recognition of spirituality over all material possessions. The grandmother shrills at her son to come back when Hiram and Bobby Lee take him to the woods and again calls for her son when she hears the shots being fired. On the other hand, when the thugs take her son’s wife and children to the woods, she does not even protest. This further accentuates her lack of compassion that symbolizes her lack of respect for God and religion. She keeps exhorting the Misfit to pray to God, while she herself is not a person that honors God’s teachings. Finally, when she realizes that the Misfit will kill her, she acknowledges the fact that he is a son of God like other people whom she respects. Thus, at the moment of death she actually honors her religion and God, and thereby the author symbolizes death as her real acknowledgement of the need for spirituality. Authors use different literary devices for the purpose of conveying their messages to the audience. Flannery O’Connor uses the concepts of God and religion to communicate the themes of her stories to her readers and in the story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, she uses the tactic of deftly deploying religion to illustrate the selfish existence of her protagonist who on the surface level appears to honor God and the need for spirituality. But on the other hand, she does not practice God’s teachings until she finally recognizes that death is imminent. Works Cited O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. United States of America: Rutgers, 1993. 31-54. Print.