Death Becomes The Ignorant Essay, Research Paper
Flannery ‘O Conner is a wonderful writer. She has the ability to claim peoples’ attention and claims their souls with the grace of a few words. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” she does just this. Not only does she claim your attention with these stories, but she also shows a most harsh and cruel look at reality. Between these two stories, the two older women are portrayed as ladies who live in the past. These two women are so ignorant in what they do and what they believe, that the only time they realize this is after death claims their souls.
As “A Good Man is Hard to Find” begins, we see a grandmother that is selfish and self-centered. She finds a way to criticize anything and anyone just so long as her image is still upheld. She is full of hypocrisy and ignorance. As the rest of the story unfolds, this only becomes more and more apparent. At one time the grandmother says, “In my time, children were more respectable then…People did right.” (‘O Conner, 830) She then comes back in the next sentence and says “Oh look at the cute pickaninny.” (‘O Conner, 830) She was directing this racial slur towards a little black boy standing by the road with no pants on. She finds a way to say one thing by criticizing it and then come back and say something completely different to what she said. This kind of hypocrisy and ignorance will be the end of her.
In “Everything That Rises Must Converge,’ ‘O Conner shows us another older woman, a mother of a college graduate, who’s racial discrimination separates herself from the real world. With a cloak over her eyes, she cannot see that times have changed and that racial prejudice cannot survive in an ever-changing world. One of the first things that the mother says in this story is “The world is in such a mess everywhere…I don’t know how we’ve let it get in this fix.” (‘O Conner, 821) Here she is referring mainly to the black population in America. She finds it intolerable and has a tough time realizing the truth of the matter. Not only does she have great prejudice towards black people; she also finds it somewhere in her heart to like little black children. Its not just because they are cute, she thinks of them as play things, not even people. She, just like the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” is brought to reality in a single life changing situation.
These two women, unique in their own way, but similar in act, both meet the same fate. As a result of their own ignorance and blindness to reality, death claims their lives. The grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is how three times in the chest by a convict called the Misfit. The Misfit says one thing about the grandmother after he shot her. He says, “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” (‘O Conner, 839) Here the Misfit tells us that because the grandmother had not been able to look past herself and her own selfishness, that she was dead. Had she been made aware of this earlier on in her life, things might have been different and she may not have been lying there in a ditch in her own blood. The Mrs. Chestney in “Everything That Rises Must Converge” meets a similar fate. In an attempt to give a penny to the little black boy, the black woman and mother of the boy hits the mother with her red purse. This puts the mother into a daze, which she never comes out of. Her son tells her “You got exactly what you deserved.” (‘O Conner, 826)
Another prominent issue seen here is control. “The woman does not wish to be controlled in any way, including the obligations of charity, and the magnitude of her reaction is enough to knock Mrs. Chestney to the ground and out of her senses.” (Bowers). This is also evident in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The grandmother seems to want to have some sort of control over the Misfit. She refers to him as “one of her children” as if she was going to be able to touch him as a mother would. Feeling this, the Misfit shoots the grandmother three times in the chest.
“My task, which I am trying to achieve, is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see.” (SouthComm) This is a quote from Joseph Conrad. Flannery ‘O Conner has been often heard quoting this very passage. This quote describes exactly what ‘O Conner does in her writings. She has a way of showing the naked truth, through humorous but blunt examples. Through the grandmother and Mrs. Chestney, ‘O Conner shows us that ignorance will have its consequences. Whether she shows it through control or through death, she makes the point that ignorance is not right and will lead to undesirable outcomes.