Shiyang Yao Essay Samples
Paper# Final Version
The Role of Misfits in Realization of Christian Values
Flannery O’Connor is one of the famous storywriters of the nineteenth century due to her perceptions of Christianity, interesting characters, and violent plot elements. She uses characters that are in different situations showing how human beings are trapped in selfish worlds due to their ignorance and rebellious attitudes. The characters in her stories are very selfish and cannot see the acts of grace in their daily lives. The aim of this paper is to outline how the author described misfits and their role in enlightening the main characters in their perception of life and true Christian values. In this regard, two short stories by Flannery O’Connor “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People” are compared.
In the first story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” the characters, especially the grandmother, are always concerned with their desires and needs. The grandmother doesn’t connect and love her son’s family until they come across the gangsters and the misfit who is one of her children. At this point, she realizes the place of humanity in one’s life and accepts the fact that all people are capable of being saved. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” was written for the purpose of converting people in the society who had not accepted the Christian faith entirely. This story represents the values and priorities of the people; a significant position life offers the Christians where they are not prepared. O’Connor is writing this story to explore Christian values in a very violent way and to show bad people all have bad ending. The author uses violence in the story in order to bring out the rebellious attitudes of people in the society and demonstrate the role of misfits in that society. This is used to seek the reader’s attention. The use of violence portrays the attitude of the people on how the world does not notice the presence of God unless a monumental thing happening on the earth. This is shown in how the grandmother is shocked out of her judgmental and selfish attitude by the view of the gun. She only realizes that she has more connections with other human beings when the members of her family are murdered. She says to Misfit that he is like one of her children, and this makes her recognize her sinfulness, mortality, and the poor relationship she had with other people. In this God’s grace is seen as always coming up into the lives of people when they are not looking for it.
Thus, O’Connor uses different characters to explore her themes in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” such as the misfit and the grandmother. The misfit has been used to illustrate the theme of violence and a representation of change of attitude. Being an escaped murderer, he kills the family and shoots the grandmother in the chest three times. During his speech, he speaks politely and even describes the turn of events at his father’s death, his feelings of the world injustices and his mistreatments. As the grandmother listens carefully, she realizes that the man is one of her children thus making an unselfish religious connection with him something she was incapable of doing. The grandmother, on the other hand, brings out the selfish and pushy character of rebellious people whom their concern is on their wants and needs. If she had not insisted on going to the old house, his son’s family could not have perished. Thus, the role of misfit in this regard and the violence he imposed the grandmother is to demonstrate the constants between good and evil and show the importance of the true Christian values in the world full of violence. In other words, the author’s message to the audience is that people need to treat others like their close relatives, and the story of the misfit is the best illustration of it. If he was treated better, he would become that evil, yet he would make the grandmother reconsider her life and sins regarding her son’s family and finally gain peace of mind at least before death. Through the Grandmother, O’Connor shows her strong religion belief that people’s souls need to be saved despite their actions in life. Thus, Flannery O’Connor story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” deals with religious themes like all her other works. The story demonstrates the visions of O’Connor on what happens when people live their lives without a spiritual presence.
In the story “Good Country People”, the author also pays attention to the Christian values and how they are embodied in human behavior. In this regard, the author demonstrates how Christian values can be distorted by one’s blindness to their actual meaning and how they should be reflected in one’s life and treatment of people. In this regard, O’Connor shows that people like Mrs. Hopewell are blind in their faith in goodness of other people and their devotion to Christian values; yet, they are incapable of seeing the actual implementation of these values in human behavior and their own attitude to people around. Hulga Hopewell represents the skepticism to Christian values through her proclaimed atheism and supremacy of scientific and philosophical approach to life. Although she argued that she did not believe in goodness and human values. In fact, she wants to believe more than her mother is capable of believing and following Christian values. The relationship between two is the best example of this struggle for understanding and believing in Christian values. While Mrs. Hopewell created a certain ideal of “good country people”, who follow God’s will, are simple in their actions, are nice and charming in their behavior and good-hearted in their intentions, Mrs. Hopewell is not one of them. The main reason for this is her attitude to her daughter. While she praises the importance of true Christian understanding and acceptance of differences, she does not accept differences about her own daughter. She cannot accept that she is not that simple like daughter of Mrs. Freeman that she is crippled and will not be able to go to dances and find a suitable man to provide for her and make an ideal Christian family. Just as the grandmother from the previous story, she is selfish and observes life of her daughter only from the personal perspective. Thus, she is more concerned with other people and their perception rather than the actual well-being of her own daughter. Since Hulga could not get her mother’s understanding, she decided to rebel against everything she considered to be right. She decided to oppose Christian values because her mother worshiped them, although she did not follow them appropriately.
In this regard, the role of misfits like Mrs. Freeman and Manley Pointer is to show blinded people like Hopewell family what the world is actually about and to open their eyes to the true Christian values. Unlike in the previous story, it was not done through via means of violence mainly because the main characters were as evil as the grandmother showed to be to her son’s family. Hopewell mother and daughter are sinful in their blindness and reluctance to understand each other. In this regard, misfits like Mrs. Freeman and Manley Pointer are aimed to make these people reconsider their world perception and finally see it the way it is and the role of true Christian values in it. Thus, the author argue that these people need to learn true Christian values the hard way, by being cheated into a sin by the evil, meaning misfits. In this regard, the main function of Manley Pointer is to show Hulga that if people follow the path of their bodily desires and abandon spirituality, they will lose themselves and their souls to sin. For Hulga, to understand this truth of life, she had to surrender her belief in self-control and philosophy for the sake of believing in something real, human goodness and maybe love. However, her initial delusions resulted in the lack of true understanding of life and that some people can be truly evil and interest-oriented. Thus, she had to lose everything: her faith, her confidence, her control, and dignity in order to realize that she was wrong and that truth is in Christian values. In this regard, the misfit acts as sour medicine curing one’s soul of self-imposed disillusions. From the spiritual perspective, Manley Pointer serves as means of taking one’s spirituality in order for the person to realize that that spirituality actually exists.
Furthermore, in order to outline various themes in the story and emphasize the role of misfits in introducing Christian values to the main characters O’Connor uses various literary strategies. In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the author has used symbols to express complicated ideas. For example, she uses weather and the skies to show a character state of mind. In the final scene, the sky is very clear suggesting that the grandmother had died with a clear vision of the place she had on earth. The old house in the story is also a symbol representing the attitude of the grandmother who was always tied to living in the past where she thought that people were better and decent than they were in the present. This rebellious perception leads to the ruining of Bailey family that was highly distorted by a past that never existed. Additionally, the writer uses irony to illustrate the theme of the misfit. In the beginning of the story, the grandmother says, she would not endanger her family when a criminal like that was around. Despite saying this, she exactly does the opposite by sidetracking the family to take another desolate roadside.
The symbolism in Good Country People except for explaining complex ideas is also used in order to strengthen audience’s impression of the event described and to make the theme of misfits’ role in the story more vivid. In this regard, Hulga’s wooden leg symbolizes her soul. In fact, it symbolizes part of her soul, the part that became immovable and oriented towards materialistic triviality of life. In other words, it is part of her soul that corresponded to her belief in science and philosophy rather than the spiritual aspect of life. Manly Pointer symbolizes the devil that tempts people and takes their souls for false promises and commitments. In this regard, he did not seduce Hulga with his pretense of goodness and love and took what she considered to be the most intimate, her wooden leg – her soul. In this context, the author uses symbols in order to make the audience realize the crucial function of this act of deceit – Hulga gave her soul to the devil and lost herself in order to again herself in that very act of loos and grief. In other words, she lost her commitment to scientific justification of life and obsession with self-control; however, she gained valuable life experience and finally managed to see the spiritual path in front of her. Thus, through pain and despair, she finally realized that she was blind and wrong in her perception of the world. This very realization was a step closer to her recovery and understanding of the true Christian values. The symbol of gates means the borderline between spiritual and material worlds. Just as in the previous novel, the author uses the symbolical meaning of colors in order to send a message. When Manly Pointer was leaving in Hulga’s blurred view, she saw him as a figure between the bright blue of the sky and green of the leaves. In this regard, blue symbolizes heaven and salvation, while green means charity and unselfishness. In this regard, the contrast between him and the symbolical meaning of these colors suggest that although he was the devil to seduce her, his role in her life was positive because it brought her back on the right Christian path. Thus, just as in the previous story, symbolism is a crucial element in making the narration more emotional and palpable for the audience.
Overall, from al mentioned above it can be concluded that the authors used the image of misfits in two stories in order to demonstrate the contrasts between the true values of life and Christian values and their pretended embodiment in the main characters lives and attitude to their relatives. Although misfits demonstrate evil features of human character, they are used to make people understand that they are wrong and though the negative experiences they realize their mistakes and find strengths to face the reality of the fallen world. In this regard, the role of misfit in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is in making the grandmother realize how badly she treated her son’s family and giving her the opportunity to leave this life in peace with herself and the God. The role of misfit in “Good Country People” was in making Hulga open her eyes and realize the world around her the way it was. He also was there in her life to make her regain her spirituality and her soul, not as symbolical wooden leg but as her inner self. Finally, in order to make the functionality of misfits more comprehensible and the central message more comprehensible for the audience, the author masterfully used symbolism and irony. Thus, these two stories demonstrate a certain pattern in the author’s use of misfits in establishment and realization of Christian values in the complex world.