O’Connor “Good Man Hard to Find”
The women in some of O’Connor short stories do not “deserve sympathy for synthesizing aspects of both gender roles” as some critics say, because they are not trying to balance their lifestyles to survive; rather they are manipulating their surroundings to gain an advantage In life. Mrs… Shortly uses her friendship with Mrs… McIntyre to refresh her self-esteem Just as the peacock uses Its colors and spots to gain attention and affection. The old woman uses her daughter’s handicap as a crutch for her age as Mr… Shiftless uses other’s trust to silhouette his broken body and soul.
The grandmother takes advantage of her old age and uses it as an excuse for attention as the Misfit uses his mysteriousness as an excuse for crime. These women’s tools in fighting their expected roles in life are voice and stature for Mrs… Shortly, pity and grief for the old woman, and attention for the grandmother. Always in the right place at the right time to take attention away from those who deserve it is Mrs… Shortly in “The Displaced Person. ” With her snide remarks about the “naggers” who “don’t do nothing but steal,” she seems to always be defending her right as a worker for Mrs…
McIntyre. The first sighting of the displaced persons was a spectacle for Mrs… Shortly as she realized the people did not look like aliens or animals, but were In fact human. Better yet, these new workers had some better qualities. The husband turned out to be handler for working the farming equipment, the son a useful translator, and the daughters more beautiful than Mrs… Shortly. Of course after seeing these traits and specialties of the foreign people, Mrs… Shortly does not accept the foreigners, in fact, “every time Mr…
Zigzag smiled, Europe stretched out in Mrs… Shortly imagination, mysterious and evil, the devil’s experiment station” (O’Connor, 211) . She instead tries to find a way to discredit them for her own benefit. Although Mrs… Shortly has no authority over anything In her life, including Mr… Shortly, she attempts to sound like she does. Her long speeches to Mr… Shortly about whether or not the Zigzags can actually speak English or if they know what a still Is have no Intent to make Mr… Shortly aware of his own possible unemployment.
Instead, she hopes to Just blow off frustrations In a elude attempt to sound more educated on the subject than her husband. Comically, he only answers her questions of hearing the complaints with a “no. ” The fact that he answers in such a seemingly disrespectful tone only shows Mrs… Shortly that he is below her in understanding life, and that is what she seeks. Working diligently to share her grief with others is O’Connor old woman character in “The Life You Save may be Your Own. ” The old woman’s daughter, Lucent, who suffers from an obvious mental problem and deafness, is not properly cared for.
It might suffice to say the mother cares deeply for the thirty year old aught as she cries when she is married off, but it Is a stronger argument to highlight the possibility that she is crying because the one person always available to talk to Is leaving. The old woman strives to gain attention and usefulness through pity. Although, the truth of the matter Is that she doesn’t take care of anything even though she could. When Mr… Shiftless arrives, it takes him a mere week to teach the aspects of her life are also mistreated such as the house, especially the front porch where she spends most of her time, is denied passion.
The first viewing of Mr… Shiftless in the sunset as a man comparable to Christ on the cross is a ginger topic worth noting as a sign to the old woman. Like a second coming, the man will fix things up as the old woman’s husband used to. More importantly is the fact that he does not look like a normal outline of Christ on the cross, rather he is “a broken silhouette. ” With his one arm, Mr… Shiftless handiwork is even more impressive than his soft spoken demeanor. But the old woman is looking for more than a handyman; rather she is looking for money to pity her and her situation. It might then suffice to say she only asks Mr…
Shiftless to marry her daughter because she wants to have a permanent tie to a person that pays attention to her. She even entices Mr… Shiftless with the house, “my well never goes dry and my house is always warm in the winter… And yonder under that she’d is a fine automobile. ” She laid the bait carefully’ (O’Connor, 57). This exaggeration about how great life can be for the man in the old woman’s life is Just that, about the old woman and not Lucent who he is marrying. Mr… Shiftless contests her offerings with his own outlook on life, “Lady, a man is divided into two parts, body and spirit. … “Body and spirit,” he repeated. “The body, lady, is like a house: it don’t go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like an automobile: always on the move, always” (O’Connor, 57). Of course he is blandly referring to his own motivation for being a traveling man, and not a savior as he has a broken body, a slow mind, and only one part of the trinity: soul. Mr… Shiftless is still the one thing the old women needs to complete her life. Perhaps it is because she has a house as a DOD, a soul as the car, and needs a mind to complete her daughter.
Whatever the case may be, she is clearly struggling to fix her own life and not the well being of anyone else. Another woman who works patiently to oust others of power is the grandmother from “A Good Man is Hard to Find. ” The introduction of this character is strong and vibrant, “the grandmother had on a Ana blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a Ana blue dress with a small white dot in the print… In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she as a lady’ (O’Connor, 3).
As the grandmother attempts to look like a lady, her real intention is to gain attention. Her tool to being a warrior in her world of people you “Just can’t trust,” is attention. She continuously makes up stories and over steps her boundaries as a grandmother. In an attempt to gain curiosity for the land she feels is great, Georgia, she creates a storyline that ultimately gets the family killed. Although it was not her intention to do so, it was her intention to mix up a story from Tennessee to Georgia in order to prove a point.
At face value it may seem the grandmother was interested in exciting the children, but it is soon apparent she is more interested in exciting anyone around who will listen. For example, when confronted with the Misfit, the grandmother does not cry or scream about her family getting executed, nor does she become seemingly angry with the men. Instead, she begins to focus their attention on herself. She not only uses her age as a tool, but also her failing memory. “Why your one of my babies. Attempt to stall the murderer.
Perhaps she is only interested in saving her life, cause there is no attention in death, unless of course you are wearing bright colors. There is the possibility that her slipping mind is playing tricks on her, and an equal possibility that she finds death itself the most attention a person will receive. This is obvious as a baby usually receives the attention of a room, she tried holding the baby in the car with no such luck. Thus, death is acting as an attention-grabber for the woman who has the full audience of the three murderers on her in death. But not all of the women in these stories were in a race to outdo other’s wants and deeds.
Baileys wife in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” for example, was immediately compared to weak and delicate things, “whose face was as broad as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green handkerchief that had two points on the top like rabbits ears” (O’Connor, 2). This comparison to an animal of prey might be more than Just a foreshadowing of her quick, tragic death. It might also be highlighting her weak stature and dependence on gender roles. Baileys wife’s attention to fitting a housewife’s role is supported by her few actions as a side character.
When the family is planning an illegal trespassing of all things, the mother is outnumbered on countering the plan. Instead of resisting the idea then, she tells the children “We’ll all stay in the car” (O’Connor 10). This safe action would be the natural route for a mother and her role in such a situation. After the family gets into an accident, it is again apparent that the mother is the weakest person in the group. She is the only one who gets seriously injured with the broken shoulder, but also the only one who is able to hold onto the baby. This is again a motherly action.
O’Connor main women, warrior-like characters were not placed within her short stories to go unnoticed. Perhaps her goal was to highlight similar traits of strong women and to point out how they differ from the seemingly weak ones, or maybe she was setting a trend for the “wrong” way to be a strong woman. These women-warriors may have looked as though they wanted to be equal and strong in “a man’s world while essentially manuals,” as some critics suggest, but perhaps their clever strategies were nothing more than a need for attention, pity, and social stature.