A Comparison of Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People and A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1427 Words
Date:  2022-10-23

One characteristic of Flannery O'Connor's novels is their formulaic nature. In other words, her stories seem to be following a basic plot where a proud main character, usually a female finds redemption at the end of the story. However, to judge O'Connor narrations as formulaic is to ignore the extreme complexity embedded in her stories. Undeniably, an in-depth look into her stories reveals that they are somewhat competent than repeating each other. Perhaps this is best illustrated in a comparison between Good Country People, and A Good Man is Hard to Find. Reading these two stories reveals the nature of life in the mid-20th century and the values of the South. These aspects contained in both the two narrations creates some considerable levels of differences between the two stories that are seen in the setting of the narrative, the characters and the values of New and Old South.

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The difference in the setting of the two stories is not that significant as one might think and it can be assumed that they unwind in the same environment. The setting in A Good Man begins somewhere in Atlanta with a family traveling South until they arrive at Toombsboro town. Here, the grandmother persuades her son to take a diversion onto a rough road where they experience an abundance of the local flavors including barbeque and plantation sights along the way. There is an ambush on the way where the bandit robs and kill the family. As for the time, it is apparent that the story is set in the late 40's or early 50's based on two facts. The first one is that given the description of the car the family was traveling in and the mention of a book Gone with the Wind, a 1936 publication, one can guess that this was the 1940's or so. Also, there is no mention of a war going on but with grandma quoting the way Europe acted during that period makes the story most likely to be set in post-WWII. Good Country People is purported to create a different impression though has its setting unchanged but rather a little bit modified. The earlier parts of the story are set at Mrs. Hopewell's kitchen where she converges for a meal together with two other women. Mrs. Freeman who has her own family usually comes at some point in the meal though she doesn't eat with Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell. The kitchen setting creates the sense of these women trapped in a familiar mid-century routine. The highlight of the setting in this story is the barn loft that is located at Mrs. Hopewell's rural farm in Georgia.

In regards to characters, the difference that occurs between the two narrations is that in A Good Man, they are slightly more mobile as compared to Good Country People. However, a subtler difference is realized when the antagonists from both books are examined. The theme of violence occurs in both A Good Man and Good Country People, and it is this theme that establishes the merciless pleasurable tension that critics bestows on O'Connor works. Although the violence is not graphically depicted, their levels vary, and in A Good Man, the degree is higher than that in Good Country People. But this is not what is important here but the personal nature of the antagonist in their violent acts. When it comes to honesty, Misfits of A Good Man fairs well than Manley of Good Country People, and it seems impossible to compare the two. Misfit is presented as a man in his middle ages who has somehow come in terms with reality. Despite Misfit violently dealing with the family, he displays honesty and truthfulness in the face of a reader. In the first place, when grandmother recognizes the person attacking them and calls him out to be Misfit, the attacker does not deny this and personally admits to being Misfit. He asserts that he is not a good man though not the worst in the world. This is a rare honesty from this antagonist that even the grandmother lacks.

On the other hand, Manley of Good Country People is dishonest and a pretender. He is unlike Misfit and hides his identity in front of the grandmother. Readers learn about him as a polite, humorous, young man selling bibles but is manipulative traits are not revealed until later. He is dishonest that he has a heart condition and only say so to manipulate Mrs. Hopewell and win her admiration. His dishonest and imposter nature even leads to him trapping the skeptical and cynical Hulga with a projection of innocence. The only time the Manley is honest is after fooling Hulga and admitting that he is a non-believer who does not follow Christianity and even claims that his real name is not Manley Pointer. Even after leaving Hulga and running away with her wooden leg, no clue is left of who he really is. This is how dishonest Manley pointer is as compared to Misfit.

Besides the characters, the concept of right and wrong follows each of the two pieces of O'Connor's stories. The author tries in both her narrations to send a message on the imperfection that people have and the world being a terrible place where people make mistakes and misconceptions. It can be said that O' Connor manages to achieve this brilliantly through her characters. The characters are symbolic, and by using many characters in her two stories, the author represents different generation though within the same familial setting and uses them to drive for the changes that can make the world a better place. It is without a doubt that O'Connor is addressing the need to change from the new to the old South. One aspect of her narration is the difference that she puts forward between the old and the new south, and it is these dissimilarities that act as instruments employed by the author in voicing her disapproval of what the south was becoming.

In A Good Man, the grandmother views are outdated though reflective of the values of the old South in a time of widespread racial tension. O'Connor uses her to represent what life in the South used to be. One of the traits displayed by the grandmother is the need to look ladylike with her dressing. She wears dresses with white organdy trimmed cuffs and collars. On her neckline, she pins a purple spray violet clothing with a sachet. By this, the grandmother takes readers back to a time of flowered hats, white gloves and women always in dresses. Besides her taste of dressing like the typical old South lady, she is a staunch Christian. Similar observations are made in Good Country People where Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman represents the values of the old South. They carry themselves like old Southerners taking family roles that were designated for women. They stay at home, make meals and share them, showing the traditional values associated with openness, simplicity, kindness, and neighborliness. Another value seen here is when Mrs. Hopewell states that the reason for keeping Mrs. Freeman for so long as her worker is because she is not trash and they are good country people.

However, these values of the old South are contrary to those of the new South. In A Good Man, O'Connor description of the children's mother is in contrast to that of their grandmother a representation of the new South. She adores slacks, and her hair is tied in the green scarf. She represents the values of new south where unlike before, women are becoming lesser central figures in the society. In Good Country People, Holga denounces the old South values that have led to her being hurt. The knowledge that civility and common decency are not useful is seen in Pointer stealing her leg.


In conclusion, O'Connor's A Good Man and Good Country People have some considerable differences regarding setting, characters and the values of the old and new south. The setting is somewhat in the same state, but their timing is different as well as place. Despite the books sharing the theme of violence perpetrated by their villains, the degree varies, and each of these protagonists has different characters. Ultimately, the two books express the difference in the values of old and news South. This is in regards to dressing, the place of the woman in the society and behaviors considered moral. Despite the values of old fading away, the author is confident that people will one day change for the best.

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A Comparison of Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People and A Good Man Is Hard to Find. (2022, Oct 23). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/a-comparison-of-flannery-oconnors-good-country-people-and-a-good-man-is-hard-to-find

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