In The Short Story Essay

Submitted By AbrahamE1
Words: 1800
Pages: 8

In the short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Flannery O’Conner tells how a family’s vacation comes to a tragic end in the hands of a dangerous criminal called The Misfit. The ironic title indicates that men are hard to find due to their chauvinistic, short-tempered, and arrogant behaviors. However a controversial ending with the grandmother and the Misfit reveals a redemption scene which entails the behavior of woman. The women, including a girl, in this short story have patriarchal views of how woman should act, and the story’s conclusion suggest that women redeem themselves to men since they are powerful authority figures in gender roles.
Gender roles are shown right away in the beginning of the short story. According to Alison P. Lenton in The concise Corsini encyclopedia of psychology and behavioral science, gender roles for “men are generally expected to be more agentic and less emotional than women, and women are expected to be more communal and less aggressive than men. Furthermore, men are often assumed to have paid occupations and to be financially responsible for their families, whereas women are assumed to be homemakers with primary responsibility for the children.” “Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy” (O’Connor 940). This sentence clearly suggest that Baily is the only son the grandmother has, therefore she considers him as a reliable provider for a good standard of living. In other words, it’s implied that her female children can’t provide a “good life” like a male figure, and that the grandmother is a patriarchal woman. During the beginning of the story one can also see that the “traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive; they cast women as emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive” (Tyson 83). The grandmother pleads to her son to not go on the Florida trip since there’s a possibility of encountering the Misfit. Baily, however, is sitting down reading the sports journal while his wife does a stereotypical task of “sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar” (O’Conner 940). Meanwhile, the grandmother appealed to her emotions instead of logically thinking what would happen if they encountered the Misfit on the way. She panicked saying, “I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did” (O’Connor 940). Once again we see women being submissive to men.
With this patriarchal family environment, young John Wesley has learned his male authority early on, and rudely tells his grandmother “If you don't want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” Subservient to little John Wesley’s disrespectful question, the grandmother doesn’t punish him for his sarcasm, instead she asks him what he would do if the Misfit caught him. Not surprisingly John Wesley responded with what the traditional male figure would say, “I'd smack his face,” he said giving no thought to the idea and instantly going into that masculine response to violence. (O’Connor 640) “Those who maintain a traditional gender role orientation are likely to be influenced by the rules and rituals of the generations that came before them, by their parents and grandparents” (Blackstone 338). John Wesley shows more chauvinistic, short-tempered, and arrogant behaviors in the car, after not letting his sister, June Star, win a game of figuring out cloud shapes. Apart from John Wesley viewing a cloud as the shape of automobile, he becomes physically aggressive with his sister because essentially he rather fight and argue than lose by a girl. John Wesley’s “anger is a very effective mean of blocking out fear and pain, which are not permitted, and anger usually produces the kind of aggressive behaviors associated with patriarchal manhood” (Tyson 88). The young boy is in the position of gendering which is described by Tyson as “raising a child to conform to his or her traditional gender role both