The significance of violence in Flannery O’Connor’s Stories
All O'Connor’ stories have instances of violence. In the story A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the author introduces a mysterious grand mom who is dissatisfied by the son’s choice of holiday to Florida instead of her preferred destination of Tennessee. On their way however, the grandmother disturbs the cat and it responds with a terrified cry. The cry makes Bailey who is driving to slid and land into a ditch on the sides of the road. The children who are also traveling in the same car get happy and to them it looks like an adventure. The elderly woman however complains of internal injury to make other sympathize with her.
The author uses violence to explain the theme of conflict in his stories. This conflict is both internal and external. Internally, it exists within the personality of main actors. In the above example where Bailey almost caused an accident, and the grandmother pretends to have developed internal injury, to attract attention, this can be classified as an example of an internal conflict. The internal conflict is also a sign of low self esteem (O'Connor 238).
Another instance physical violence arises after Bailey pulls back and gets on the road and they are waiting for anybody who offers them assistance. A car comes immediately and contrary to expectations, three men come out of the car, each one of them has a gun. The leader of the gang talks to Bailey in a low talk. Later, ‘Misfit’ the name of the gang leader according to grandmother, orders his cohorts to start killing the family one person at a time. The grandmother starts witnessing about Jesus for Misfit to spare her life. This angers the gang leader kills the family.
This is another instance of violence in the story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and it signifies the lack of conscience among the gang under the leadership of Misfit. Despite the family’s pleas for mercy, the gang goes ahead and kills each one of them ruthlessly. The gang does not have any respect for human life. To emphasize this ruthlessness, Misfit commends that ‘…she would have been a good woman, if it had if it had somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.’ P 182 This shows that the gang even after committing murder, they do not feel remorse about it. In fact Misfits accomplice feels happy that they have killed and Misfits commends that, ‘It’s no real pleasure in life.’ P 233
Violence is also used satirically in the story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, to show that sometimes the people we consider very stubborn and we think they cannot change can turn around and act selflessly. For example, when the grandmother is just about to die, she acts gracefully and generously. In the beginning she was a hypocrite Christian and insists on going to Tennessee and not Florida. In addition, she tried to save her own life and not that of her folks. In this case violence is used to show that bad people can transform to good people. It is for the same reason that Misfit observes that if there was someone to shoot her daily; grandmother would have been a fine lady (O’Conner 189).
The dominant opinion is that the grandmother's final act was one of grace and charity, which implies that "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" was written to show a transformation in the grandmother as the story progresses. In the beginning, she was more concerned about looking like a good Christian than being a good Christian. This is shown by her selfish desire to go to Tennessee instead of Florida and, more importantly, by her attempts to save her own life, even as her family continued to die around her (made worse by the fact that if she had kept her mouth shut, none of them would have been killed). In the end, she realizes she has not led a good life and reaches out to touch her killer, the Misfit, in a final act of grace and charity. This "epiphany" resembles the grandmother's newly found redemption. Even though she fails, her attempt is not lost on the Misfit, who remarks that through enduring a constant of violence, she would have been a good woman if there had been someone to shoot her every day.
Violence also leads to mistrust in the family. The people who fall victims of violence tend to lack trust with people they are supposed to trust. In the story, Good country people, Hopewell does not trust the gentleman who pretends to be a Christian and sells bibles, Manley Pointer. After Joy takes him on a date, he persuades her to climb up on the barn. This mistrust is confirmed when the pretending bible seller disappears with Joy’s artificial leg because she rejected her sexual advances. This was very inhuman because Joy could not move without her leg.
O'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard To Find And Other Stories. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955. Print.