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Since the publishing of this short story, it has gone down to become one of Flannery O’Connor’s most-read short stories. She wrote it in the year 1953 but published in 1955. This short story made her be termed as one of the best writers of short stories in the world (National Endowment for Humanities).
The story gives us an idea of how a person transforms. After just losing her entire family and having her life threatened, the elderly grandmother seems to undergo an abrupt change in heart. She treats the people who killed her beloved family and almost killing her with lots of love. Such actions are often very hard to find. O’Connor argues her work in a religious way, which is hard to understand. Such a transformation of heart and behavior seldom happens (National Endowment for Humanities).
The elderly grandmother and Misfit both are living by some moral codes. These codes often affect the decisions that they make, the actions they take, and how they perceive most things. A moral code can be described as beliefs and conduct that a person always observes, that he/she believes are reasonable and fulfill their lives.
Initially, the motive of Misfit and his code look like they are misguided. However, we later realize that it is the codes of the grandmother that are actually unconvincing and very inconsistent. The moral codes of the grandmother are built on the traits that she perceives to make people good. She puts a lot of emphasis on being a lady which makes her put more effort into her appearance undermining her substance.
She goes on to deceive her own family severally and does not recognize the world that is around her. She is not able to pray and goes on to pose questions on how divine Jesus is despite her stating what a religious Christian she is. Misfit claims that the grandmother would have been a very good woman had she someone to shoot her every single minute in her life (Meyer, 2011).
On the other hand, Misfit consistently sticks to his moral conduct. Having been convicted of a crime, he always believes that the punishment he got was not proportional to the crime he committed. However, he acknowledges that the crime does not actually matter in the end. He says that he found out that crime has no importance. He said that even after killing a person and taking his car, one would soon be punished for that (Meyer, 2011). His bafflement towards religion is often very genuine.
While the elderly grandmother accepts and follows religion and believes without any questions, Misfit often poses questions and seriously considers to follow or not to follow them. He concludes that religion has no point and goes on to adhere to his own sort of religion. He takes up a violent and not giving way. In the end, he emerges to be successful.
The Term “Good Man”
The grandmother poses herself as good. Her character taunts the name. Her actions do not at all match the meaning of the name good man. This makes the name lose its entire meaning. She first uses the name on Red Sammy when she complains about the anger about how people are generally not trustworthy. Sammy asks her why he had let the two strange people charge for their gasoline. She said that it was because Sammy was a good man (Meyer, 2011). Sammy had been swindled by the strangers, and the compliments by the grandmother were not genuine. This means that the grandmother’s definition of the term “good” was gullible, which is not the case.
The other time when the grandmother uses the term “good” was regarding Misfit. This was when she asks him if he would actually shoot a lady. Misfit does not say that he would not do it (Meyer, 2011). Being a lady is something that the grandmother considers very moral. The answer Misfit gives proves that he does not share similar moral codes as hers. The grandmother goes on to call him a good man, although with a lot of desperation. This shows that the term “good man” is not genuine when used by the grandmother.
As the grandmother applies the term “good man”, it shows that it does not mean “moral” but means that the person’s morals are similar to hers. Red Sammy is good, according to the grandmother, because just like her, he trusts people without questioning and yearns for the past occurrences that he was more innocent. These two characteristics are shared by the grandmother. She also called Misfit a good man, because she interpreted it that he would not shoot a lady. This means that he would abide by the moral conduct of the grandmother. Her assumption, however, is misguided. We realize that the only good thing with Misfit is his consistency (Sloan, 1998).
In the short story, both the grandmother and the Misfit receive grace. Both have several flaws and sins and numerous weaknesses. As per Christian theology, people are given salvation through the grace of God. God, according to theology, favors and gives his grace to all human beings without any discrimination. This includes bad people (The Holy Bible).
The grandmother would be one of the most unlikely people that we would think can receive grace. She deceives her grandchildren; she inconsiderably manipulates her own son; and she talks about how inadequate the present is and how superior the pas was in a way that people find annoying. The grandmother does not seem to recognize her role in society and does not recognize the environment that is around her.
She has a very strong sense of moral superiority always judging how good other people were and instructing them how best they would live their own lives. This is in spite of her being morally weak. A good example is when she tells Misfit to pray while she was unable to come up with a prayer (Meyer, 2011). On the side of Misfit, he is a murderer and refuses to repent. This shows how bad the two people were.
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Despite all these, grace befalls the two. This shows that even bad people like the grandmother and Misfit are capable of being saved by God (The Holy Bible). The grandmother says that Misfit is one of her babies, and therefore one of her children. The truth of the matter is that Misfit is not actually the son of the old grandmother, but she has come to realize that they are both human beings (Sparrow). The comments by the grandmother do not seem very sincere judging from her past behaviors (Sparrow).
However, this is the moment in the story where the grandmother expresses clarity and the highest level of sanity. We, therefore, have a reason to trust her words. We can interpret this as God’s giving her grace just before she passes on. Misfit had earlier claimed that there was no pleasure but only meanness (Sloan, 1998). At the end of the story, he acknowledges that there is pleasure in life. He said that killing people no longer gave him happiness (Meyer, 2011). This suggested that there was a possibility of him changing, just like the grandmother had done.
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