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Personal Identity In "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" By Flannery O'conner

1227 words - 5 pages

Personal Identity in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

The unnamed grandmother in the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner, considers herself to be a lady because of her heritage in the Old South, and believes that she is superior to those around her. In this work, the grandmother puts her family into dangerous situations because of her personal identity, eventually leading them to their death. As the story progresses, she leads her family down a dirt road, off of their intended route. She startles her cat as they continue down the dirt road, which jumps up and frightens her son, Bailey, causing them to go off the road. This series of events leads ...view middle of the document...

When they drive to Florida, Bailey’s wife “still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief” (374) whereas the grandmother is dressed in a navy dress, cotton gloves and a straw sailor hat, so that “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (374). Her identity as a lady is important to her even after death, which becomes evident later in the story when the family is in a car crash, and subsequently approached by the Misfit. When the Misfit and two others approach them, they begin to talk and she reaches up to fix the brim of her hat to improve her appearance, only it snaps off in her hand (383). Any calmness that she had before meeting the Misfit has been broken, just like the brim of her hat. As well, the hat proves that her vanity is important to her even when faced with an immediate threat.
The consequences that result from the grandmother’s petty and selfish acts range from average to inexcusable as the story progresses. First, she uses the children to her own means as she attempts to change her sons mind about the destination of their trip (372). This act is selfish, but wanes in comparison to the others. After this action, she deceives her son by bringing her cat, Pitty Sing on the trip in secret (375). This seems to be a meaningless act until the cat springs up and startles Bailey later in the story, causing the car to crash. Following the car crash, the Misfit approaches the family. When the family is faced with the outcome of death, she does not worry for her family or beg for their safety, instead she focuses on herself asking them “[y]ou wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” (383). The family is only in this situation because of the grandmother’s deception. The grandmother’s clever tricks and lies lead the family to the hands of the Misfit, and causing them to be killed.

At the end of the story however, the grandmother has a brief change of identity before she is murdered. This change in character indicates a religious aspect to the story. When faced with death, the grandmother asked the Misfit “[d]o you ever pray?” (384) in an attempt to either distract him with the topic of religion. He responds saying that he does not, but he was a gospel singer for a while, until he committed an unknown act and was sent to the...

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