1. Introduction 1
2. Demonstration 2
2.1 Spiritual crisis reflected in the settings 2
2.1.1 Ways and the yellow shirt 3
2.1.2 Woods 4
2.2 Spiritual crisis incarnated in the characters 5
2.2.1 The family 5
2.2.2 The Misfit 6
2.3 Spiritual crisis expressed by the narrative techniques 7
2.3.1 Third-person point of view 8
2.3.2 Irony 9
3. Conclusion 10
Works Cited 13
The Spiritual Crisis Reflected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964), an American writer and essayist, was an important voice in American literature. As Alice Walker announced, “Her view of her characters pierced right through to the skull” (71), and she enjoyed the reputation for the profound themes and unique narrative skills of her works. In her novels, she relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. During her lifetime, O’Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. Her representative works are as follows: Wise Blood (1952), The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955), etc.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find, written in 1953, is one of O’Connor’s most famous short stories. This story shows us a tragedy in which the Grandmother--the protagonist--and her family go to Florida to enjoy their holiday but are finally killed by the Misfit on their way. As an important masterpiece, A Good Man Is Hard to Find has received wide critical attentions and been studied from different perspectives: Christian motives and themes, characteristic analysis, narrative techniques and so on1 . At the same time, the translation of O’Connor’s works promotes the relevant research in China and there are approximately 94 results in CNKI. Among them, domestic studies on A Good Man Is Hard to Find are much less insightful than those in foreign countries and only 12 articles in Chinese core journals can be discovered in CNKI, which mainly focus on the themes and characters. 2 However, the study of the spiritual crisis reflected in this short story is a comparatively new attempt.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find was written when hedonism and mammonism were in vogue in the United States. Different from others, O’Connor saw the spiritual emptiness of American people through the superficial prosperity. According to her story, the inner world of people at that time was faced with the danger of being corroded. Their religious belief had been lost, their moral standard had been polluted, and their spirit had become empty. This kind of crisis should be saved urgently. She once remarked: “My stories target at those who think God is dead, or I am writing for them consciously at least”(qtd. in Fitzgerald 92). As a result, O’Connor used a touch of irony to sketch out a world full of violence and disaster in this work. Moreover, she created a series of distorted, grotesque characters to show the spiritual crisis of southerners to her readers “who might consider them natural and normal” (O’Connor 33). In other words, spiritual crisis is a valuable implication expressed by the short story.
Thus, this thesis will focus on the spiritual crisis reflected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. To give full expression to the spiritual crisis implied in the story, the thesis will be divided into three parts. The first part analyzes the spiritual crisis reflected in the settings, including settings on the way and colors of the settings. The second part of the thesis probes into spiritual crisis incarnated in the characters, chiefly the two main characters, the Grandmother and Misfit, who are vividly shaped by O’Connor through their conversations and actions. Through these details, the spiritual crisis is gradually presented. The third part of the thesis focuses on the spiritual crisis expressed by the narrative techniques. The description through the third-person point of view and irony makes the spiritual and moral implications more obvious.
- Spiritual crisis reflected in the settings
In addition to providing a stage for characters’ activities, the settings in O’Connor’s short stories are also important tools to highlight the themes and indicate the fates of characters. As a devout Christian, O’Connor was sensitive to the spiritual crisis in the southerners’ life—they were gradually betraying the God. In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the ways and the yellow shirt are two kinds of typical samples created by the author to reflect the betrayal. In addition, in order to awaken people’s spirit, she described a picture of violence through a series of settings. Among these settings, the dark woods vividly serve as a foil to the serious spiritual crisis of the main character.
- Ways and the yellow shirt
A Good Man Is Hard to Find describes the journey of a traveling family. When referring to a journey, people may naturally focus on the landscapes all the way. In this story, different settings play an indispensable role in highlighting the theme, but among all the settings, the ways and the yellow shirt have more symbolic meanings in showing the spiritual crisis.
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