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The novel "A decent guy is hard to find," written by Flannery O'Connor, is full of suspense and intrigue for the reader. O'Conner tells the story of the concerned families in a manner that completely captivates the reader. It leaves you with more details and asking a lot of questions. When I continued reading the novel, I began to form an opinion about each character based on their behavior. I originally thought the grandmother would be successful in encouraging his son Bailey to change his mind and encourage them to visit her relatives in East Tennessee. It was only after I read the whole story that I came to understand the exact meaning of the heading of this story as used by this author. There is a continuous mention of the title throughout the story. Flannery shows how the different characters in her story interact and through their actions, she seeks to give the reader a clear understanding of the fact that in life, good people are very rare to find.
My interpretation of this story agrees with O’Conner’s point of view that she brings out from her story. I believe that good people are difficult to find. Our current moral fabric of the society that we live in has deteriorated so much. Right from the start of the story, the grandmother experiences disrespect from both his son and daughter-in-law. She tries to persuade Bailey to cancel their trip to Florida in favor of visiting Tennessee, but he pays no attention to her since he is so much engrossed in reading the sports section in the newspaper. She then focuses her attention to Bailey’s wife, but she too ignores her and continues to feed their young baby. This disrespect from both parents is emulated by the young children as depicted in their verbal outburst as they respond to their grandmother. Another incidence in this story of lack of good is illustrated when both June Star and John Wesley screamed with excitement when they were involved in an accident on their way to see the house with the secret panel. June Star’s disappointment further surprises me when she says, “But no one’s been killed.” This behavior of celebrating their misfortune shows that they had not been taught the right moral values.
O'Connor points out the lack of good in the children’s grandmother. She is a manipulator who uses her wit to have her way with no consideration of other people’s desires. She tries to scare Bailey with reports of a criminal who had escaped prison and was on the loose harming innocent people. She says to him, “Just you read it; I would not take my children in any course with a criminal like that a loose in it. I could not respond to my integrity if I did.” For her, she is not concerned about the children but about her interests to visit Tennessee to see her relatives. From the conversation between Red Sam and the grandmother, it is evident that they agree with Flannery’s title of the story that she gives. Red Sam says, “These days you do not know who to trust.” This statement means that people are behaving more like chameleons in that a person may appear good on the outside, but their true character is that of someone who can harm.
The encounter with the misfit brings about interesting knowledge of the characters. The grandmother seems to be only concerned with her safety and does not try to save her son or any other family member. Bailey too speaks very harsh words to his mother when she reveals the identity of the criminal who is on the run. The misfit gives orders to his friends to kill the family members, and he proceeds to kill the grandmother. Because of the bad character of Hiram and Bobby Lee, they go ahead and perform the command of the misfit without question it or having any mercy on those they were instructed to kill. Throughout the story, every member of Bailey’s family together with the misfit and his two friends have illustrated some lack of good in their actions, and the title of the story truly fits the description of their characters about each other. This story therefore truly brings out the exact status quo of our communities by showing us the various characters of this family together with that of the misfit and his friends. O'Connor manages to point to us the extent of the distraction and evil that comes as a result of self-centeredness and disrespect shown by people to others.
Martha Stephens, through her article, “From the Question of Flannery O'Connor,” has given her interpretation of the story by O’Conner. However, my interpretation of the story differs with that which she gives in her article. Stephens argues that O'Connor does not go into details concerning the details of Bailey’s family before they died. I differ with this argument because from my point of view, going into such details would not have helped us to get the real meaning of the title in O’Conner’s story. The grandmother in a time of panic told the misfit that maybe Jesus did not raise the dead. In response to her words, he says, “I was not there so I cannot say he did not.” He goes on to tell her, “It is not right I was not there because if I had been there, I would have known, and I would not be like I am now,” Stephens explains that it is evident that if the misfit had a true encounter with the grace that came with the experience of knowing Jesus, his life would have been different and he would not be living a life of crime. I differ from her opinion because as much as the misfit required Jesus to change his life, he also had the power of will to decide between pursuing justice and leaving crime altogether. He decided to kill people that prevented him from observing the law and maintaining a system of justice.
In conclusion, therefore, it is evident that O'Connor chose a good title for her story that is made true by the characters that she uses. It is true to say that good person is hard to find in our societies. There is, therefore, a great need to instill good moral values on everyone and especially the young so that the moral fabric of our future generations may be substantial. A great effort needs to be put into changing the negative mindsets and ideologies that people have. The positive virtues learned will then go a long way in generating a community of people with characters that are above reproach. I believe that with a strong determination and the right influence, good people will not be tough to get.
O'Connor, Flannery. A good man is hard to find. New Canadian Library, 2015.
Haddox, Thomas F. “On Belied, Conflict and Universality: Flannery O’Conner, Walter Benn Michaels, Slavoj Zizek.” Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism: Essays on violence and Grace (2010) 231-39
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