“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner is a short story that has been published in a collection with the same title in the year 1955. The short story is a combination of humorous portraits, gruesome events and innocent descriptions, all mixed together to form a piece that is very enjoyable to read. O’Conner places strategically several funerary symbols throughout the story to create a gloomy atmosphere. These motifs are set to describe the nostalgia of the story and the passing of time.
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During the road trip taken by the grandmother and her family, O’Connor added the first and most significant funerary symbol: “They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. ‘Look at the graveyard!’ the grandmother said, pointing it out. ‘That was the old family burying ground.” The complexity of this image is overwhelming, considering the fact that none of the elements included in this citation are set there by accident. The author mentions specifically six graves, the exact number of the people in the car (grandmother, mother, Bailey, baby, John Wesley and June Star), which is meant to predict the terrible ending of the story. In addition, the fact that the six graves were grouped together forming something that resembled an island is a symbol of unity, one such as a family.
Later on in the story, the author describes the moment when Misfit, the notorious murderer appears in the tale: “Behind the ditch they were sitting in, there were more woods, tall and dark and deep.” This particular description of the woods is meant to set a morose tone to the plot, as the tall, dark trees create a shadowy setting for the horrible events that are about to occur. Furthermore, the woods symbolize the death scenes of each character, who is taken away to be murdered. The tallness of the trees and the deep darkness that surrounds them are meant to create a secluded place, dark as dusk, even during the day.
Lastly, another noteworthy funerary symbol is the car, which approaches the group of characters. Right before the encounter with the Misfit, O’Conner stops for a while to describe the car as “a big black battered hearse-like automobile”, focusing on its rough, dismal appearance. A hearse is known as the automobile that carries the coffin towards a funeral, a very palpable comparison to the car, in which the Misfit and his accomplices arrive in the woods. This is, without a doubt, a clear illustration of forthcoming death, which foretells the destiny of the six family members.
All things considered, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a dark short story, filled with morose references of death and obscurity. The funerary symbolism is carefully implemented in the narrative flow, making the reading mysterious and fascinating. The complexity of the characters shocks as the reader approaches the end of the story and realizes the immensity of the events. With skill and experience, Flannery O’Connor, well-known for her use of symbols and motifs, manages to set the mood of the scene according to what it is going to happen. Making use of several funerary symbols, O’Connor created a story, which can shock the readers with the death of each family member, although the motifs foretell the terrible fate.
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