December 4, 2014
Grandmothers Are Good People, Aren’t They?
‘Always respect your elders’ is what my mom would always tell me as a child. An elder would usually refer to an older, wiser person, such as a grandparent or even a great grandparent. Grandparents are generally loving in nature, such that they care for the people around them and are often selfless. Sometimes grandparents can offer guidance or advice gathered from their many years of life. In Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” a grandmother and her family travel to Florida and run into a murderer called The Misfit along the way. He kills everyone in the family except the grandmother who tries to tell the Misfit that he is a good person and would not shoot a lady. Alas the grandmother is the last to die by the hands of the Misfit who comments “She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (O’Connor 16). The grandmother’s characterization is unlike traditional grandmothers and begs the question, is she really a good person?
The first alarming quality of the grandmother is her manipulation of her loved ones. In the beginning, the grandmother is already trying to manipulate Baily, her son, in order to divert the family trip to Tennessee to see her connections instead of taking the trip to Florida, where the rest of the family want to go . Though her “attempt to manipulate her son” is spoiled, this does not stop the grandmother’s relentless manipulation during the trip to Florida (Larson 3). She undermines Baily’s authority by bringing Pity Sing the cat on the trip, when it is perfectly clear that Baily does not want a cat present with them at the motel (O’Connor 2). She also shows no consideration for Baily as she knows he “would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house,” yet manipulates the kids and him to drive off the main road towards the house, which she soon would learn was a tremendous mistake (O’Connor 7). Her constant betrayal of Baily is parallel to the deepest sin possible in Dante’s epic poem Inferno as SparkNotes summarizes:
Dante next follows Virgil into Judecca, the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell and the lowest depth. Here, those who betrayed their benefactors spend eternity in complete icy submersion. A huge, mist shrouded form lurks ahead, and Dante approaches it. It is the three-headed giant Lucifer, plunged waist-deep into the ice. His body pierces the center of the Earth, where he fell when God hurled him down from Heaven. Each of Lucifer’s mouth chews one of history’s three greatest sinners: Judas, the betrayer of Christ, and Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Julius Caesar. (“Inferno”1)
The grandmother continues to manipulate her family and undermine Baily; a good person would not abuse her family in this manner. As the story progresses the grandmother expresses her judgment on appearance and her bigotry. For a long car trip she has decided to dress in a proper navy blue dress with lace trim, cotton gloves, and a sachet pinned to her dress (O’Connor 2). She envisioned “anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady,” based on her attire (O’Connor 2). In the grandmother’s eyes, a well put together outfit is what it takes in order to be classified as a lady. With her lady-likeness, she points how she thinks black people cannot afford things like white people when she sees a “cute little pickaninny” on the side of the road without pants on (O’Connor 3). This then later exposes her view on how ignorant she thinks black boys can be; she tells a story of her court ship with a man who had his initials E.A.T carved into a watermelon left on her front porch, which she never received because it was eaten by a black boy when he saw the initials EAT (O’Connor 4). A grandmother should not be quick to judge people based on their exterior, whether it be skin color or clothes.