Book Review "A Goodman is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

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  • Author Aggrey Nzomo
  • Published November 13, 2023
  • Word count 684

Flannery O’Connor, in her masterful piece of short story titled A Good Man is Hard to Find, narrates the unfolding events during her family trip graced by her grandmother. Her overzealous grandmother is determined to not only micro-manage the trip but also brainwash the entire family. The climax of her endeavors are crowned when she cracks whip and informs the family of some secret door somewhere in a plantation she used to visit. It is her conviction that finally lures Baily (the son) and the entire family to finally decide to visit this plantation. Their decision to visit the plantation becomes the beginning of their perish. In rich vocabulary, exceptional plot and outstanding characterization, O'Connor succeeds in bringing out these themes in the then trouble laden U.S of the 1950s.

The setting of this story is very strategic. It is set in the post-World War II when racism and segregation was the order of the day in the United States of America. The vocabulary used is enhances the themes of racism and segregation that O'Connor explores in this short story. For instance, the grandmother’s powerful voice and diction become the ruling factor that forces the entire family to regard everything she says as gospel truth. The writer uses words like 'Niggas' to capture racist overtones in the Post-World War II America.

The segregation characteristic of the 1950s U.S, the grandmother believes only the elders are wise enough to decide for the younger folks. This position is questioned when her advice to visit the plantation becomes the source of doom for the entire family. In addition, the grandmother uses discriminative and outrightly racist words as seen in the scene where she refers to African Americans. For instance she says, '… she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T.!” (297).

Plot is another powerful tool that O'Connor employs to emphasize the themes of segregation and racism. Plot is the window through which the story unfolds. On the way to Florida (one of the most racist regions of the time), June Star spots a rather stranded African American boy standing by the door of shack and wonders why he their. The grandmother chips in quickly to explain to her by saying that, 'little niggers in the country don’t have things like to do', (296). She puts it in a manner to suggest that unlike native Americans, African Americans are idlers who have nothing much to keep them occupied. She further ponders on whether June Star should consider painting the picture of the boy. This implies that the African American boy would stand there hours on end that can even allow a painter take adequate time to paint him.

Characterization is yet another stylistic device that O’Connor calls to task to enhance the themes of racism and segragation. She creates a grandmother to represent the South of American. The synecdoche that is the grandmother fully represents the believes, thoughts and the character of South Americans in the Post-World War II America. In the nature of the old folks, she ponders the days long gone with the wind and says, 'the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up it . . . ” (299). Such words depict the nostalgic nature of aged people to which she is a synecdoche. O’Connor creates this racist and reminiscent grandmother to represent the people of the American South of the 1950s still fancy about the old times.

To conclude, the successful manner in which O'Connor explores the themes of racism and segregation in her masterful piece of short story can never be overemphasized. She calls to task the use of stylistic devices like vocabulary, plot and characterization to paint the picture of the U.S of the 1950s. While many literary critics question the inability of the story to fully provide solutions to the social evils of racism and segregation, her story no doubt forms the best starting point for Americans to rethink their stands on these societal evils.

Aggrey Nzomo is a renowned writer/researcher on environment and renewable energy

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