What makes people act the way they do? Is it hereditary? Could it be that instinct alone guides people and their behavior? Or is it that people become a product of their environment? The answer can be found in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find“. A Grandmother, living with her son and his family, appears to be a manipulative and deceitful old woman. As she and her family take a vacation drive to Florida they stumble across three escaped convicts and are systematically murdered, thanks to Grandmother’s deceitful ploy. The driving force behind the Grandmother’s deceit is the way the family treats her.
The Grandmother tries to convince Bailey, her son, to change their travel destination from Florida to Tennessee, and is completely ignored. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose and headed toward Florida” (495). “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it.” (495). “Bailey didn’t look up from his reading, so she wheeled around then and faced the children’s mother” (495). As she pleads with the mother, we see that again she is ignored. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad.” (495). “The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her” (495). It is clear that neither adult has any interest in The Grandmother’s wants or concerns. Indeed, it seems that they do not even know she exists, not important enough to acknowledge.
In addition to the way Bailey and his wife treat her, The Grandmother has to put up with verbal abuse from her grandchildren. Apparently these children can say whatever they want to their Grandmother, no matter how disrespectful, without any repercussions. The little girl, June Star, says of The Grandmother, “She wouldn’t stay home for a million bucks, afraid she’d miss something” (496). The boy, John Wesley, adds his bit by saying, “Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground” (497). An indirect insult to the Grandmother who, the book leads us to believe, is from Tennessee. These children, her grandchildren no less, clearly have no respect for The Grandmother. To be treated in such a fashion at that age, by children of their age, has got to be a bitter pill to swallow.
The Grandmother’s attempt to deceive her family is a direct result of the family’s mistreatment of her. Bailey and his wife clearly are not interested in The Grandmothers opinions or desires, and the children show only disdain, bordering on contempt, when speaking to The Grandmother.
O’Connor has unwittingly hit upon the way the elderly are often mistreated. Their opinions are of no consequence, if even heard. They are rarely noticed at all unless they do something outrageous. The old adage that says, “Children should be seen and not heard” can often be applied to the elderly. When the elderly have finally gotten enough of this abuse they do something to say, “Hey! I am here! I am not dead yet! My opinions do matter! Treat me with the respect I indeed deserve.” It is a sad society that treats the elderly this way. The elderly have lived a long life, have contributed very much to society, and they should not have to resort to trickery or tantrums to have their voices heard. They should be treated with the respect they have earned.
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” written by one of the most prominent fiction writers is a great example of American Literature.
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