The grandmother is the central character in the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor. She is also a very well rounded and dynamic character. She shows various characteristics and reveals various remarks as they story progresses. Some of her qualities include selfish and a pushy person. She is also kind of manipulator in a way that she insists her family to change the plan. At the beginning of the story when we first realize her desire to visit her childhood house, she is being a very selfish person. Examining her conversation with her son Bailey, the grandmother is moreover a pushy person.
She is convincing Bailey to change the trip plan according to her need only and which will benefit her only. She is trying to manipulate her family to do what she thinks is best. She is also a bit of criticizer at points in the story. Her characteristics remain same throughout the story that is even when her desire was ignored, she still kept praising it. The story opens up with a conversation between the grandmother and her son Bailey about their trip to Florida. Instead of going to Florida with her entire family, she insists on visiting her relatives up in Tennessee.
In spite of everyone’s choice, she just wants to go where her mind is set. It is very obvious that she is only concerned about her gaining and nobody else’s. Her selfishness occurs when she says “The children have been to Florida before” (O’Connor 345). It sounds like the grandmother is being stubborn and childish, and trying to change their mind about going to Tennessee. She is persuading the family to change their vacation destination to Tennessee. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward the Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people.
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Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did” (O’Connor 345). She is trying to scare Bailey and also saying that going there could also be dangerous. She lies after she seems to not get any reaction from previous attempts by trying to say out that it’s not about her, but in fact it’s about the children. “The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad.
They never have been to east Tennessee” (O’Connor 345). She is critical of the children’s mother and persuades Bailey by telling him that it can be an educational experience for his children. Truthfully, she wants to go to Tennessee for the benefit of her own only and fulfill her needs. One of major selfishness occurs when she first tries making her son Bailey change the whole vacation plans including the destination. She had always treated her son Bailey as if he was child still and expects him not to make his own decision for himself.
After the family ignores the grandmother’s attempts of persuasion and her desire, they decide to go on their own way. She is urged to travel with her family. Subsequently the grandmother shows characteristics as if she were a follower. “The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go” (O’ Connor 345). At this moment in the story, her movement shows that she has been ignored and becomes the first one to get ready as if she has been forced to do so. In spite of knowing that her son Bailey doesn’t like taking cat onto their trips, she hides her cat, Pitty Sing, into the basket. … and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it” (O’Connor 345). She is avoiding her son and doesn’t want to leave the cat home alone. At the end of the story, the grandmother shows a very obvious selfishness act where is only concerned about her life only and shows zero concern about the rest of the family. When the family encounters the Misfit and his gang, the grandmother recognizes him as the Misfit. “I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got! ” (O’Connor 355).
She is pleading the Misfit for her life only by saying the word lady repeatedly and offering him the money. She is also praising the Misfit by calling him a good man and trying to save her life. She was also careless about her family. When her family is taken down into the woods, she continues to talk to Misfit. She ignores the sound of when her son and rest of the family were being shot. She is apparently oblivious to many things. She was ignoring everything but the Misfit. “The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulders and he put it on. The grandmother couldn’t name what the shirt reminded her of” (O’Connor 354).
The grandmother doesn’t even realize that shirt was her son Baileys. She had no interest in knowing where that shirt came from and what happened to my family. For the concern of her life only, she tries to persuade the Misfit the same way she tried with her family. “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people! ” (O’Connor 352). She is trying to manipulate the Misfit and hopes that he will bear her. She is thinking about no one else but the sake for herself. However she fails once again to influence the Misfit.
One of her characteristics in the story is being a very pushy person. Even when she is not heard by her family, she continues to praise her homeland hoping that Bailey would change his mind still. After they had left The Tower, “a part-stucco and part-wood filling station and dance hall... ” (O’ Connor 348), the grandmother recapitulates “an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when was a young lady” (O’Connor 349). Regardless of the consequences, the grandmother finds an alternative way to manipulate Bailey for changing his route to the old house she wanted to see. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose anytime looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again” (O’Connor 349). She is being a very pushy person here trying to convince Bailey and makes it sound even interesting telling the children. “There was a secret panel in this house,” she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, “and the story went that all family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found…” (O’Connor 349).
The father concedes to visit the house after his kids start to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with secret panels (350). She persuades the children about telling them a secret panel in the house which makes them grows their excitement even more in seeing it. However she is not telling the truth about the house but just making the children want to see it right away and would compel their father to take them there. She is not only being pushy to Bailey but also to the children.
She seeks a way to gain Bailey’s attention. “It’s not far from here, I know,” the grandmother said. “It wouldn’t take over twenty minutes” (O’Connor 350). The grandmother later realizes that the house with secret panels she told the children is in Tennessee not in Georgia. Her desire to visit the old house from childhood results in an accident when her cat Pitty Sing sprang onto Bailey’s shoulder (350) losing the control of the car and resulting into an accident.
If the grandmother had not pushed her son to detour to see the old house, which she later realized was in Tennessee not in Georgia, they wouldn’t have met with an accident. She is the cause of her entire family when they encounter the Misfit and his gang who shot everyone at the end of the story including the grandmother. Throughout the story, her various remarks reveal that she wants to achieve only for the benefit of her own and won’t let anything come in her way. At the end, during her conversation with the Misfit, the grandmother says that she knows him from good people trying to save her own life.
She carried out herself as a very selfish person especially at the end of the story. In my opinion she remained a static character as her characteristics didn’t transform. She remains egocentric throughout the story and seeks to gain everything that will benefit her only. The grandmother shows various personality traits that brings families down fall at the end of the story. Her act of selfishness shows when she tells her son Bailey the benefit of taking their children to Tennessee.
She wants the children to visit different part of world and be broad. But truthfully, only she will gain everything by going on vacation in Tennessee. She persuades her family by stating that this trip could be an educational experience for the children. As the story ends, she faces a death as her punishment for self-serving doings. Along with her, the entire family faces with death.
- Updike, John. “Pygmalion. ” Literature for Composition. 8th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.
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