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

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A literary work is somehow influenced with the political, social, cultural, and historical state of her time. Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find is not an exemption.

The 1950s was the culmination of the World War II and the commencement of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Racial segregation was in decline but the remainders were still visible. The era was also noted for its national religious rebirths. These events in the history of the United States are also depicted in A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor.

INTRODUCTION

Flannery O’Connor wrote A Good Man is Hard to Find in 1953 but it was published later in 1955. The period in the US was known for its political, social, and religious events. These events influenced Flannery O’Connor’s ideals and these influences can be depicted in her short story through different elements.

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Connie Ann Kirk (2008) noticed the violence in A Good Man is Hard to Find and she noted that these violence is actually a way to spring up the faith and religiosity in the story. Flannery O’Connor said herself that her religion influenced her writing to a great degree (cited in Scott, 2009). Moreover, Katrina Eder (2009) affirmed that O’Connor’s story bears “evident traces of its time of composition, the 1950s. Reminders of the Southern popular culture, nostalgia and the automatic racism that pervaded the years before civil rights movement can be easily detected” (p. 23).

METHODOLOGY

The researcher utilized a cultural study of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find to be able to examine the social, political, cultural, and historical influences of the period in the short story.

DISCUSSION

Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find shadowed forth the condition of the American community in the 1950s. It was during the 1950s when the culmination of the World War II and the commencement of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States took place. This condition of the American society during the time was visible in the short story. Flannery O’Connor portrayed aggressive characters and intense actions in her short story so much that it was noted of its violence. According to Connie Ann Kirk (2008), the result of such violence in the characters of her short stories is their acceptance of God’s grace. The Mistif, a criminal, was actually able to mull over God’s grace during his conversations with the grandmother but was too hateful to accept it. The grandmother who was trying to be superficially upright ended up citing Jesus and His grace though she has not actually recognized Him in her life. Connie Ann Kirk (2008) confirmed that the grandmother only “mouthed the language of Christianity” (p. 77). She was merely trying to appeal to the religious impulse of the Mistiff so that he would spare her life.

Flannery O’Connor’s short story is greatly influenced by his faith and religion. She was a devoted Roman Catholic, and her faith can be depicted in the inclusion of religion in her story. She said, “I write the way I do because and only because I am a Catholic…. If I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write…. Being a Catholic has saved me a couple of thousand years in learning to write” (cited in Scott, 2009, page xxiii). In the short story, her religious themes stand out of the violence and make it a primary justification of the existence of violence.

Moreover, the era also held religious rebirths. In 1950, The National Association of Evangelicals, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the American Council of Christian Churches emerged. In addition to her personal faith and religious knowledge, the national religious awareness also influenced her and her writing.

During the period, racial segregation was still present in the United States. It was only in 1954, when the Supreme Court began to impose a fair and equal education for all Americans regardless of their race and religion. This did not end racial discriminations yet. And it is also depicted in Connor’s short story. Racism is found in the way the grandmother addressed the black American child. “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny! she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. Wouldn't that make a picture, now?” The term “pickaninny” which she used for the child was used to refer to slaves during the days of slavery. Slavery has not found its end in the mind of the grandmother yet as she thought of the black American girl as one according to the slaves. The grandmother’s feelings toward the black American set a space between her and the American girl placing the black American girl below her.

In the same way, the grandmother’s feeling towards World War II is also racist. She blamed Europe of the war and thought that the Americans’ participation in it was avoidable. She thought the Jews were responsible for what happened and the Americans have nothing to do with it. It is evident that she sided with the Americans because she was one of them and blamed other racial groups of what was happening. Katrina Eder (2009) also commented that O’Connor’s story bears “evident traces of its time of composition, the 1950s. Reminders of the Southern popular culture, nostalgia and the automatic racism that pervaded the years before civil rights movement can be easily detected” (p. 23).

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