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In O'Connor's novel, the grandmother character grounds the truth of the events and pushes the family into disaster. She is a primary character in O'Connor's novel, and she is portrayed as a complex character trapped in the past. She brings her family through disaster by her actions and the notion of being trapped in old ways of thought. Grandmother, as the main character in the novel, contributes greatly to the plot's progress. Because of the way she shapes the plot, the author is able to capture the reader's interest with this character. Grandmother’s reminiscing of the old ways claims a distinctive curiosity from the reader and helps in exploring and understanding how this character draws a strange feeling that pervades the story and gets her and her family murdered.
Analysis of Grandmother Reminiscing and How She Gets the Family into Tragedy
The Grandmother is an old granny who wants to get what she wants even if it calls for utilizing manipulative ways. The very first thing that the reader notice from Grandmother is that she does not want to go to Florida for the vacation. However, she chooses Tennessee for the vacation instead of Florida. The reason behind this is that Grandmother says that Florida will lead the family into meeting Misfit, a criminal who escaped from the jail who could kill the family. Even though the family is against her proposition, she tries every means she can to change Bailey’s mind. She is an old person who tries to do things her own way. She tells Bailey, “Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that loose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did” (O’Connor 1). However, it is the Grandmother’s choice and recollecting of the Misfit criminal that ends the family into the many predicaments and even gets them killed.
The entire story depicts grandmother to be stubborn and behaves in a manner that suggests that she cannot listen to the advice given by the young people such as her children. For example, Bailey does not want her to carry the cat to their journey. However, grandmother does not listen to him and she hides the cat inside the car in a basket and thus secretly brings the cat along with her. On their way, she also wants to go and visit the old plantation even though Bailey does not agree to this. In order to see that she gets what she wants, she talks to the children and convinces them to tell Bailey to do as she wishes. The author writes “There was a secret panel in this house…. and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . .” (O’Connor 45). Grandmother says these words craftily in her attempts to convince Bailey to drive to the old plantations even though she knows that she is not telling the truth. Evidently, she leads the family into a dangerous tour drive. In this tour, the family ends up having an accident due to the Pitty Sing cat sneaking out of the car, leaping on Bailey who loses control of the car. She avoids responsibility by pretending to be hurt. Her actions put the family in dangerous situations.
Grandmother is stuck in her old ways and she seems to care less about the suffering and the poverty of the lower class individuals. Besides, she indicates a given degree of superiority in her actions and has poor judgments towards other people. For instance, she spots on the streets a poor “Negro” child who is naked and she utters that “Wouldn't that make a picture now?”(O’Connor 45). This shows that she makes judgments by paying attention to the outward appearance of a person to impress people instead of looking at the person’s inner beauty of an individual. The grandmother implicates a prejudice behavior towards the “Negro” child through her comments and clearly, indicates that she still lives in her old ways where the Black-Americans were discriminated.
According to her old understanding, the black people particularly the kids belong to the lower class and are meant to live a poor life. She clearly indicates that they are inferior to her; a lady from the upper class. She has a narrowed mind, opinionated and continually reassures herself to be the best Christian who rightfully knows how to judge other people the right way. However, the reader is able to tell that grandmother is an arrogant, selfish vain and judgmental who only care for himself and not others. She emphasizes the old differences that existed in the American society; the racial prejudice and lack of assistance to the less fortunate lower class individuals from the high-class families. O’Connor aimed at portraying the old moral code of grandmother’s character which is built on the characteristics she believed in people.
Additionally, the author used grandmother to develop and set the mood of the story helping the reader understand the misfortune that befalls the family. Grandmother seems to predict through their encounters and her talks the heartbreaking catastrophe. For example, in the family drive in the city that grandmother selected, they travel along an abandoned road hinting the tragedy of death. O'Connor writes “the family passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island” (O'Connor 67). Interesting to the reader is that, there are also six people in the car and the family encounters six graves. Besides, Grandmother does recall the old plantations which she does describe of having paid a visit in the “neighborhood of Toombsboro” (O'Connor 82). These grandmother’s words, builds a tomb in the mind of the reader, a strong symbol of death. The explanation that the grandmother gives concerning the tower, “long dark room” is intimidating to the reader (O'Connor 81). Grandmother's words create a metaphoric impression of darkness, neglect, and emptiness reinforcing tragic deaths.
Grandmother does consider herself as being morally superior and upright because she is older than the rest of the family members and by this virtue, she constantly imagines that she is right. In her arguments, she claims that her conscience is a force that guides her life. For instance, she tells her son Bailey that the conscience she has cannot allow her to take the family into the wrong way where they would encounter Misfit. However, grandmother seems to be wrong as the direction she chooses drives the family to the road and ended up meeting the Misfit. She criticizes the children of the mother by telling them that they did not travel to the location that would permit them to “be broad” and she rudely compares the face of the mother to a cabbage. Evidently, grandmother only derives pleasure in criticizing and judging the negatives in other people. Notably, she is a selfish, hypocritical and a dishonest character who is only stuck in the old ways of making judgments about people and things around her. When she meets the depressing Misfit, she does not take the time to talk to him so that he would spare her family. She never admits the mistakes she makes, a fundamental aspect that led the family to the devastating predicament.
In the story, one striking aspect is the way grandmother is able to predict the ultimate end of the family through the dress she puts on while heading to the vocation. Certainly, the author managed to achieve the technique of foreshadowing trough using the character. She foreshadows death. Grandmother’s preparation for her elaborative magnificent dress symbolizes the ultimate end of the story. Typically, when a person dies, he or she is normally dressed in the best outfits similar to a grandmother who chooses her “Sunday best” cloth. The dress is a strong foreshadow for the preparation of a coffin. O’Connor even writes “in the case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor 31). More astonishingly, Grandmother dies in the same dress that the author talks about. Thus, the act of Grandmother dressing up her best dress predicts the misfortune that finds her and the entire family.
Certainly, an excellent literature writing encompasses how effectively the author utilizes the main character to bring out the purpose of the story and attract the audience. Grandmother, being the main character in the story, O'Connor portrays her to be stuck in the old ways of thinking bringing greater and devastating misfortunes to the family. The character correctly works on the theme and plot development adding pronounced flavor to the story. In the literary analysis of Grandmother richly reveals her to be a fundamental character. Grandmother’s reminiscing is surely enigmatic and has blended with the storyline culminating into the tragedy that climax the story.
O'Connor Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard To Find. 1st ed., California, Rutgers University Press, 1993.
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