Level 16 - Colossus
Have you ever met someone who cares so much about the way they look or how people perceive them that they can’t even focus on reality? This sums up the way the grandma in a “Good Man Is Hard To Find” is in a nutshell. Superficial would also be a good word to describe the way in which Grandma lived her life. Her whole existence on earth was unrealistic and to a certain extent surreal. Grandma led a life of not knowing the meaning of happiness. A perfect existence for grandma would be for everyone who knew her to think of her as a perfect lady who had no imperfections and always looked and acted like the lady she dreamed to be. For example, when grandma and the family took a road trip to Florida grandma dressed in her nicest clothes because she feared that if they got in an accident people would find her and they would not think she was a real “lady”. To most people the thought of pre- planning an outfit in fear of an accident sounds rather peculiar and silly but that was just a normal thought of grandmas. We do not meet the misfit until the end of the story, but it is he who hold the key to grandmothers utter emotions. I believe the Misfit was grandmother’s destiny. Flannery O’Conner creates a story that forces us to question, “What is truth?” Through the grandmother who lives a life of clichés – we are taken on a journey of discovery. By the end of the journey we discover to be “good” we must be able to accept and forgive even those who deliver great loss to us.
Truth is definitely a theme throughout the story. Grandma always believed that when she spoke, she always knew the truth. I am a firm believer that throughout the story grandma’s destiny was to meet the misfit because it was then that she would realize the importance of truth. Although, by the time she meets the misfit it will already be to late. The misfit in a sense brought out the real grandma that no one ever knew. Primarily, death is what brought out the goodness in grandma. I guess it will remain a mystery if grandma was so kind to the misfit because she feared her life or if deep down there was a person no one ever really got to know. Perhaps O’Conner wanted the reader to figure this out for him or herself.
In the beginning of the story grandma is believed to be superficial. We are led to believe this by the odd and peculiar things she did in the short time we grew to know her throughout the short story. For example, when grandma and the family took a road trip to Florida grandma snuck her cat into the already crowded car. It was a three-day road trip but in grandmothers distorted eyes that was too long for the cat to be with her for. “She didn’t intend for the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself.” If she had been more self assured on life she would never think “what if” the cat rubs against the stove. She had no regard for the rest of her family who did not particularly want the cat in the car. It was also this nuisance of a cat, which was one of the main reasons for the accident happening. Maybe it was fate that the cat went with because if he hadn’t grandmother would have never met the misfit and may have died with a sense off truth and goodness in her heart.
When the Misfit enters the story he brings out the real truth in grandma. It is kind of a paradox that the criminal actually brings good out of grandma. No one else in the world could accept a convicted murder. It kind of makes you wonder. Was grandma destined to meet this crazy man? It is not till the end of the story when we discover how much a person can change from one incident such as grandma appeared to have. The moment before grandmother gets fatally shot she tells the misfit, “Why, you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children”. (p.272, O’conner) I believe grandma knew in her heart that she was going to die and this was her one last time to ever speak her voice before she was officially dead. There was no one around which whom she could impress so she dug deep down inside of her and spoke words of kindness that were truly sincere and honorable dying words. It’s as if she made up for everything she had ever done wrong by speaking those last couple harmonious dying words.
In the end we learn that good can sometimes turn out evil. The way the misfit stopped to help grandma and the family after the accident was good, but the way in which he shot and killed them all was obviously bad and epitomizes evil. Also, grandma’s words and kindness towards the misfit were intended to be good, but in the misfits twisted mind they were threatening and turned out to be deadly.
Grandma cared so much about what people thought about her that she never really had time to sit back, enjoy life, and look at the bright side. She proved to be a changed woman from the beginning of the story to the end. Whether or not she was speaking words of truth to the misfit to save her life or she really meant what she said is undetermined. But, words of kindness were spoken and that right there earns grandma a lot of credit. The end was a dual perspective. Did grandma speak earnest words to the misfit to continue her selfish motivation to save herself, to accept the misfit as her own, or because she was providing the ultimate form of love to a man she felt sorry for. I think grandma realized that since she was going to die she would prove herself perhaps to God and accept this one menace to society. Overall, what grandmas intentions were before she died is unknown, but what we do know is that grandma for once in her life accepted a human being for who they were and for one last dying moment found a little truth in herself.