Comparison and Contrast of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Sweat"

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In the literary work, setting plays an instrumental role in not only contextualizing the work, but also in the application of different techniques (Gale 31). However, authors have the freedom of working out their setting to send a specific message to their readers and audiences. The following essay seeks to highlight the comparisons and contrasts between “A Good Man is Hard to Find"by Flannery O'Connor and the “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston. The objective of this essay is to show that both authors have used the setting to play almost the same functions.

The setting of "A Good Man is Hard to Find"by Flannery O'Connor is aimed at showing the conflict between the grandmother, as the main character, and the surrounding society (O'Connor 41).  In the introductory sections of the story, the author depicts the grandmother as being at odds with almost everything in the society, including the Misfit, her son and his family. The only person that the grandmother does not conflict with is Red Sammy. Apparently, Red Sammy shares the same perspective with the grandmother, which informs why the two are not in conflict (O'Connor 48). The setting provides the reader with the grandmother’s feelings that the society has changed for the worse and dramatically, in that its people do not hold the same respect and values as there before. On the other hand, through the use of family setting, the reader is introduced to a conflict between Delia and her husband Sykes in the “Sweat” by Hurston (Gale 35). As a way of advancing the main theme of women mistreatment in the society, the author has used different settings to illustrate instances of conflict between the two main characters.  For example, when questioned by Delia on his mistreatment, Sykes replies, “"Don’t give me no lip neither”, which shows the kind of arrogance he had toward his wife (Gale 36). Hurston also shows the magnitude of the conflict by developing a setting where a group of men were talking about the domestic violence between Delia and Sykes. Surprisingly, the men seem to support Sykes’s action against his wife.

In both stories, the authors have used setting to develop the characters. For example, in “Sweat”, Delia’s character is developed to fit the shoes of a woman that is undergoing hardships in her marriage (Gale 42). In different ways, Delia has managed to survive many years of cruel physical and psychological treatment by her husband. In order to build on this character, Hurston had to set the story in a community that supports violence against women. In the O’Connor’s story, the grandmother’s character is developed by depicting her as a master manipulator. For example, in order to ensure that she was not shot by The Misfit when they met each other, the Grandmother said to him, “You're a good man…. You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you” (O'Connor 58). The statement showed how manipulative she was in getting her way out in different situations of life.

In "A Good Man is Hard to Find", O’Connor used the story’s setting to provide clues to the reader by applying foreshadowing technique (O'Connor 63). Notably, the tragic end of the story is unexpected. However, after closer analysis, the reader is given some clues on what could be the outcome, through the setting.  The outcome is hinted to the reader when the author describes the scenic drive taken by the family through Georgia. The reader can also get some hints through Red Sammy as well as the deserted road.  Although it is seen as if O’Connor is only providing a genuine description of the surroundings as the family travels, the clue on the tragic outcome could be predicted when he noted that the cotton fields had “five to six graves fenced in the middle”. Unlike in O’Connor’s story where the foreshadowing technique is applied, Hurston decided to create suspense throughout and avoid giving clue to the reader. In the Sweat, Delia continues to suffer under his husband Sykes (Gale 66). To the reader’s mind, one is eagerly waiting to see how the mistreatment will end. Therefore, it is not until Sykes is bitten by the snake that the reader and Delia get a sigh of relief.

In both Hurston’s and O’Connor’s stories, symbolism and imagery techniques are deliberately used in the setting.  For example in the Sweat, the snake is used as a symbol of malevolence and evil (Gale 37). After knowing that Delia is afraid of snakes, Sykes uses them to threaten her. The objective is to show Delia that as her husband, he enjoys the dominance in the family setting. On the other hand, O’Connor has used different imageries to show the hopelessness in the society. For example, the sunless and cloudless sky is mentioned several times, especially by The Misfit. According to The Misfit, it was shocking that "Ain't a cloud in the sky"(O'Connor 74).  The “empty” sky is used to symbolize something austere and barren in relation to the extreme situation that the family found itself in during and after the tragic death. 

In reference to the few examples of comparisons between “A Good Man is Hard to Find"by Flannery O'Connor and the “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, one would be forgiven to argue that the two authors have used setting of their stories to play almost the same purposes.  As noted, both have used setting to develop characters, conflict, and for the application of different techniques. However, the main difference occurs in the use of foreshadowing and suspense.

Works Cited

Gale, Cengage L. A Study Guide for Zora Neale Hurston's Sweat. , 2016. Internet resource.

O'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Short Story. Place of publication not

identified: HarperCollins Canada, 2015. Internet resource.

December 12, 2023



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