Analysis Of Flannery O'connor's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find And Raymond Carver's "What We're Talking About When We Talk About Love

1317 words - 5 pages

Family vacations are almost always stressful, but in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," stress turns to outright horror for Bailey and family, for no better reason than a chance encounter following a car accident. Early in the story, Bailey's mother relates to him the story of a dangerous escaped convict, but only so that he might alter their course from Florida -- the direction in which the fugitive was known to be headed -- to eastern Tennessee, where grandmother herself hailed from. It is in their eventual encounter with that same fugitive, known to all as The Misfit, that provides us with a stark, yet brief, look at one of the odder characters In O'Connor's collection.

In Literary and Cultural Theory, Donald Hall introduces us to two contrasting looks at psychological development that are nonetheless equally regarded in the field. While the work of Sigmund Freud has been highly regarded for decades, Hall shines light on some glaringly absurd (from a more modern, "enlightened" perspective, at least) assertions that were central to Freud's work: the inferior female's envy and resentment of male "completeness" is one that stands out particularly (Hall 104). As a counterpoint, Hall also introduces us to Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst whose own body of work was developed in almost direct, proportional response to Freud's. Looking at the two of them side by side, and not as contrasting viewpoints gives, I feel, a rather broad and comprehensive understanding of the key principles laid out by Hall as a framework.

In particular, it is Hall's third point that bears on my understanding of The Misfit. Everyone seems to know that the development of a person's mind throughout childhood and into adulthood bears very directly on the experiences of that person. Where Freud and Lacan differ (and do they ever) is the specifics of how a person's history is built into its current, or eventual state. As stated by Hall, Lacan's theories center not around notions of emotional conflict between the parents and their offspring, but rather language acquisition and cultural milestones and conventions. In "A Good Man," the family is held hostage, more or less, by The Misfit and his merry men. While his lackey Bobby Lee, calmly leads Bailey and his family into the woods and executes them (we assume), the grandmother tries to reason with The Misfit, appealing to the gentler nature she is sure is buried inside him: "I know you're a good man . . . I know you must come from nice people!" (O'Connor 127) Surely, she assumes, his outlaw life can be stamped out is she appeals to his better nature, something that surely everyone responds to with the polite acquiescence that she herself has always known. But the truth, as it is eventually revealed, is something a great deal more troubling. We discover, along with grandma, that The Misfit's odd interpretation of scripture was the catalyst for his devious ways. The grandmother implores his to pray, that...

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