Flannery O'connor's Use Of Religious Allegory

2396 words - 10 pages

An ardent Catholic as she was, Flannery O’Connor astonishes and puzzles the readers of her most frequently compiled work, A Good Man Is Hard to Find. It is the violence, carnage, injustice and dark nooks of Christian beliefs of the characters that they consider so interesting yet shocking at the same time. The story abounds in Christian motifs, both easy and complicated to decipher. We do not find it conclusive that the world is governed by inevitable predestination or evil incorporated, though. A deeper meaning needs to be discovered in the text. The most astonishing passages in the story are those when the Grandmother is left face to face with the Misfit and they both discuss serious religious matters. But at the same time it is the most significant passage, for, despite its complexity, is a fine and concise message that O’Connor wishes to put forward. However odd it may seem, the story about the fatal trip (which possibly only the cat survives) offers interesting comments on the nature of the world, the shallowness of Christian beliefs and an endeavour to answer the question of how to deserve salvation.

At the outset, an insightful reader needs to draft the general boundaries of allegory and symbolism in the story. To put it most simple, the problem of distinguishing between good and evil undergoes a discussion. It is not difficult to notice that the Grandmother stands for good and the Misfit for evil. But such a division would be a sweeping and superficial generalisation, for both the characters epitomize good and evil traits. Moral evaluation is a very complex process and it is not the human who is to decide on that. There are rather various degrees of goodness and evil, both interwoven, also in their religiousness. The Grandmother seems a devoted Christian, but her spirituousness turns out to be somewhat shallow and results more from blind ostentation rather than true devotion. For instance, she wishes to dress smart only in case an accident should occur so that her body would be identified as a woman. She shows her being a “good woman”, contrary to a “good man” who “is hard to find”. But by doing so she reveals how artificial a Christian she is, that appearance for her is more significant than a “good Christian” spirit. It is her who divides the world into “good” and “evil” but she little realizes the actual parameters of these values. Her subjective point of view makes the borderline somewhat blurred, even the name of Jesus in her speech “sounded as if she might be cursing”. In fact, she is far from an epitome of virtue and it is only the fatal encounter with the Misfit that makes her realize the error of her ways. Hence, to some extent, the Grandmother may be treated as a common Everyman.
But our Everyman starts as a truly “fake” Christian and whether or not she deserves any redemption is questionable. Though she perishes like a martyr, as the Misfit confesses when he tuned to perpetrating evil deeds, the Grandmother responds...

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