Flannery Oconnor And The South

.. n contrast to this view of the old south, O’Connor presents the reader “with a world haunted by the sacred–a sacred with two faces now distinct and opposed, now enigmatically confused: the divine and the demonic”, and “in her fables the battleground where these two antagonistic powers confront each other and fight for possession of each man’s soul”(Bleikasten 139). The grandmother represents the active and faithful Christian servant, and the Misfit is symbolic of the devil or an Anti-Christ figure. Despite all of the good deeds that the grandmother has accomplished, God is not there to help her in her time of need. The old southern and traditional secular view was that good deeds would lead to a good life, but O’Connor recognizes that there is also an active force of Evil and presence of the Devil in this world. O’Connor’s antisecular and antiindividualistic views are also present in her short story “Good Country People”.

Within this short story, the reader is presented with two differing views of religion: the devout Christian and the atheist. The devout Christians, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, represents the old south as does the grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”. O’Connor criticizes the old southern Christian for being faithful and trustful in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, yet the reader the does not quite know what to make of the ending in “Good Country People”. The story ends with the atheist being decieved by one who pretends to be a Christian.

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O’Connor could be presenting the reader with the view that one is not able to really tell the difference between “good country people” and Christian or liars and cheats. “Good Country People” can be read as exploiting the idea that one is not able to tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians based on their appearance and actions. The old south puts their trust and hopes into appearances, while the new south is more reluctant and cautious. This is not to say that they cannot be decieved because the reader sees what happens to Joy/Hulga in the end. Joy/Hulga is an atheist who dismisses all Christian beliefs by saying “in my economy .. I’m saved and you are damned but I told you I didn’t believe in God”(O’Connor 286).

She compares her realization to the Christian salvation by saying “we are all damned .. but some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see that there’s nothing to see. It’s a kind of salvation”(O’Connor 288). Joy/Hulga believes that she is saved from the hypocrisies of the Christian faith, and she represents the new south because she is open to different interpretations. She feels that she has been saved from Christianity, but O’Connor raises the question: is she really saved at all? Joy/Hulga sets off to seduce Pointer, the Bible salesman, and “she imagined that she took his remorse in hand and changes it into a deeper understanding of life”(O’Connor 284). Ironically, it is Pointer that teaches Joy/Hulga the lesson that needs to be learned.

He turns on her and steals her wooden leg. In a fit of rage Joy/Hulga bursts out “‘You’re a Christian!’ .. ‘You’re a fine Christian! You’re just like them all–say one thing and do another.'”(O’Connor 290). Joy/Hulga is not able to tell the difference between him and Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs.

Freeman. She feels that by setting herself apart from Christianity she is saved from its pitfalls and hypocrisies. In reality, she is not saved from it at all. Pointer returns her comment saying “‘I hope you don’t think .. that I believe in that crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I am going!'”(O’Connor 290).

O’Connor presents the reader with a critique of religion and Christianity in both of her stories. Joy/Hulga beleives that all Christians are the same, but O’Connor points out that there are all types. Pointer pretends to be a Christian in order to prey off of their needs and insecurities. Joy/Hulga is taken in by his charming and trustworthy persona, but she is unable to see his false motives. “Good Country People” points out that people do not always prove to be who they portray. The reader is left doubtful and questions the idea of naturally “good” people and questions value of the Christian faith. While critizing the Christian faith and practices, O’Connor also raises the issue of fallen human nature.

The Misfit in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” and Pointer in “Good Country People” both represent a character of fallen human nature. O’Connor explores the idea of fallen human nature. The Misfit comes from a good family, and he states “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold”(O’Connor 127). O’Connor questions how someone from such a “good family” can turn out to be so evil? Fallen human nature is one explanation posited. The Misfit retorts the grandmother’s argument that he is a good man saying, “Nome, I ain’t a good man .. but I ain’t the worst in the world neither”(O’Connor 128).

He has the self-realization that he is not a good person. He does not know where it is that he went wrong, but he states, “I never was a bad boy that I remember of .. but somewhere along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive”(O’Connor 130). The Misfit admits that he was once good, but he is unable to determine the source of his fallen human nature. O’Connor presents us with another character in “Good Country People” of fallen human nature.

Pointer does not argue that he was once good; instead, he tells Hulga, “you ain’t so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!”(O’Connor 291). Pointer’s character illustrates that one can be born with a fallen human nature, or he is made that way by society from the time he is born. In contrast to the Misfit’s fallen human nature that comes about when he is older, Pointer began falling the day he was born. The idea of fallen human nature is contrasting to the ideas of the old south.

“Good country people” were assumed to always be “good”, and the old south also thought “bad” people were born that way. O’Connor posited the idea that the society in which one lives can influence a person to change. The Misfit was raised by “nice folks”, and the old south would have assumed that he would be nice. The grandmother repeatedly argues that “I know you came from nice people!”(O’Connor 132). Bailey, the grandmother’s son, realizes the situation that they are in, and he knows that the Misfit is not a nice person. In “Good Country People”, Pointer portrays himself as a “good country person”, and he states, “I’m as good as you any day in the week”(O’Connor 290).

Pointer dismisses the old south’s view that there are good people in this world, and he argues that he is not a bad person. O’Connor explicitly explores the themes of Christian theology through Pointer and the Misfit in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” and “Good Country People”. In addition, she presents the reader with the differing generations of the old and new south, and she illustrates the contrasting views between the two. O’Connor is not afraid to question Christian theology or the Southern culture. Her irony and satire add depth to ther stories, and her deep cultural analysis of the South brings a higher level to her writings. O’Connor also explores the concept of fallen human nature and how it is brought about.

Overall, O’Connor’s works prove to be very in depth in both her social and cultural analysis of the South. She is not afraid to critique the society in which she grew up and lived. English Essays.