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Short Fiction:

1. Discuss a theme of your own choosing in one of the following works: “Setting Free the Crabs” by Barbara Kingslover , or, “Bone Garden” by Diane Warren.

2. Discuss the author’s use of one or two devices or elements in the short story, “My Last Duchess, by Margaret Atwood.

3. Discuss the theme of loss and redemption in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. 

4. Discuss the function of a literary device, or devices, of your choosing in Gloria Sawai’s “The Day I Sat With Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts”

5. Discuss a character’s identity dilemma in Rohinton Mistry’s short story, “Swimming Lessons.”


1. Discuss the quest motif in “My Moccasins” or “The Ballad of Norval Morriseau,” both by Duke Redbird.

2. Discuss a key symbol in “The Revolution of Not Vanishing,” or “Communications Class,” both by Connie Fife.

3. Discuss the theme of healing and spirituality in “Nohkum, Medicine Bear” or “In Da name of Da Fadder,” both by Louise Halfe.

4. Discuss the theme of loss reclamation in “Commitment” or “The Uniform of the Dispossessed” both by Emma Larocque.

5. Discuss the theme of resistance and freedom in Joanne Arnott’s “Migration.”

The prevalence of violence, loss, and redemption in O'Connor's stories

Majority of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories rely heavily on similar elements to help her pass the different messages enshrined within her stories. In particular, redemption and loss have been featured in a lot of her stories including in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Different literature experts have blamed the prevalence of violence, loss and redemption in her stories to the fact that O’Connor was from a very religious background and used these stylistic effects to try and highlight certain evils that she viewed as wrong according to her religion. Majority of her stories have been found to end in a great amount of violence and horror or emotional turmoil.

The last encounter within the story between the Misfit and the grandmother highlights aspects of violence and how it evolves into the redemption of the characters in the story. Throughout the story, the grandmother is viewed as a rather evil character, with all the bad and evil attributes possible. The grandmother is described as a character who is comfortable with all the evils occurring around her, and to some extent prefers this type of world to any other scenario. In the final scene however, the world that the grandmother adored and enjoyed so much is brought down as a prelude to her murder.

“His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!'" (O'Connor 442). In this way, O’Connor was able to illustrate loss and redemption as experienced by the characters within the story. The loss of the grandmother and the world that she so revered but was not a good fit to the rest of the characters led to the redemption of everyone else within the story.

The scene also led to the redemption of the grandmother. At the moment that she is about to be shot, the grandmother is suddenly aware of the fact that the world she loved so much has been put to an end, she is suddenly aware of who exactly the misfit is. This realization occurs right before her death, "She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them." (O'Connor 442).

The final encounter between the Misfit and the grandmother

Even keeping in mind O’Connor’s love for violent endings in her stories and literature, the death of the grandmother still was unexpected and came as a surprise to me when I was reading through the story. However, the way the story developed pointed towards the demise of the grandmother. In true fashion, the character was able to receive her redemption before her death.

In the story, both the grandmother and the Misfit are able to receive redemption, regardless of all the different sins they had committed and weaknesses they possessed. According to the authors religion, Christianity, each and every human has the chance to be redeemed from their sins and evils by the grace of God (Wright 42). The said redemption, according to Christianity is available to every person, including the least likely persons of whom the rest of the world may view as not worthy of the said grace and redemption. According to the aspects of theology, it is only God who has the power to decide who shall actually go to heaven and who shall burn in hell, and not whom other people believe should go to hell or heaven.

According to the story, the grandmother is the least likely person to get to heaven due to her many sins as described within the story. The grandmother is shown to have lied to her grandchildren on several occasions. In particular, she manipulated her grandchildren in favor of her personal gain.

She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. "There was a secret panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . . (O’Connor 5).

 The grandmother goes on to manipulate her sons and grandchildren as she deems fit. After the accident in the coach, she claims to “have injured an organ” (O’Connor 6). In addition to this, the grandmother constantly complains of how the present is increasingly becoming inferior to the past and therefore not and ideal place for anyone to live.

The grandmother shows a clear preference to the life of the past and not the current state of affairs of the present. The grandmother is clearly disillusioned and is not aware of the realities of the world around her. Her disillusioned mind tells her that she is still morally superior in comparison to the other members of the community. In particular, the grandmother was heard saying “…in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money…” (O’Connor 4). In this way, the grandmother certainly believes that no one else other than her has the proper moral standing to judge other people around her. She further takes the extra step to imply her “wisdom” and dictate to other people as to how they are to live their lives and act in relation to her. The grandmother thus views herself as a perfect person with no flaw whatsoever.

The grandmother's redemption and realization before her death

Her controlling attributes however point towards her major flaw, which is hypocrisy. The best illustration of this is shown in the fact that she is not comfortable or willing to pray on her own, but continuously advices the Misfit to do so (Bandy 4). Furthermore, her faith in Christianity is wanting, furthermore showing her hypocrisy. In the story, she changes her ideas on the resurrection of Jesus. She is however more worried of her future in comparison to her Christianity. On the other hand, the Misfit has a different character altogether. The Misfit is portrayed as a killer who is not bothered by the fact that he takes other peoples’ lives.  The positive side of this is that the Misfit is not hypocritical in comparison to the grandmother. They are both evil in variety of ways, however different both their sins are.

As stated earlier, Christianity states that redemption and grace is available to every person, regardless of the sins that they have committed (Smith 14). This implies that both the grandmother and the Misfit are able to receive redemption and can be saved by the blood of Jesus and God. The Misfit is able to move the grandmother with his curiosity of what exactly Jesus did and did not do. Grandmother always had hope for the redemption of the Misfit, stating that “Listen," she said, "you shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know you're a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell." (O’Connor, 6).

The Misfit’s curiosity provides a brief moment of grace and redemption to the grandmother, pushing the grandmother to say that she at last is able to see the Misfit as her own child (O’Connor 442). According to the story, Misfit is not the actual child of the grandmother. However, it points to the realization by the grandmother that both of them may actually have a human part in them and can be redeemed regardless of their sins.

In that particular setting, the grandmother’s statement may be viewed as slightly inflammatory and inappropriate at that moment (McDermott 4; Link 4). It can be reasoned out that the statement pointed to a moment of revelation to the grandmother, maybe the only brief moment throughout the story. The statement shows the grandmother’s other side; a side of compassion and love that is hidden behind her condescending and insulting façade. In that moment, it could be argued that she had been redeemed right before her death (Yaghjian 6; Browning). The Misfit is also able to be redeemed. In this particular moment, he is able to realize that being mean and evil has no pleasure whatsoever (Bleikasten 12). The Misfit however also believes that life has no pleasure, pointing towards the fact that the Misfit is miserable. May this not distract us from the fact that the Misfit had actually realized that killing was not right and thus would be able to change from his wayward ways.  

In conclusion, the author has taken a great number of steps to ensure that the aspect of redemption is clearly illustrated in each part of the story. The use of loss of life in the story in order to be able to send the message of redemption is clear in the last part of the story. The author’s conviction to Christianity has a great influence on the theme of redemption in the story, as it is clear her idea of redemption is based on the theological perspective of redemption and acceptance into salvation as stipulated by the Bible and other theological experts.

The death of the grandmother is an unfortunate occurrence in the story, but is clearly intentional in order to send the message of redemption throughout. However, the fact that the Misfit killed the grandmother certainly clouds the whole message. His initial revelation that killing and cruelty has no purpose and joy in his life is negated by the fact that he took the grandmother’s life without flinching. The theme of redemption is still present and strong however and based on Christianity, the Misfit still has a chance to be redeemed. 

Bandy, Stephen C. ""One of My Babies": The Misfit and the Grandmother." Studies in Short Fiction (1996).

Bleikasten, Andre. "Beginnings and Endings in Flannery O'Connor." The Mississipi Quarterly (2005).

Browning, Preston M. Jr. Flannery O'Connor. Southern Illinois University Press, 1974. Web.

Link, Alex. "Means, Meaning, and Mediated Space in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"." Southern Quarterly (2007).

McDermott, John V. "Flannery O'Connor's Validation of the Unreasonable in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"." Notes on Contemporary Literature (2010).

O'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. San Diego, California: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Electronic.

Smith, Gary V. "THE CONCEPT OF GOD/THE GODS AS KING IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST AND THE BIBLE." Trinity Journal (1982): 18-38. Electronic.

Wright, Christopher J. H. "The Christian and Other Religions: the Biblical Evidence." Themelios (1984): 4-15.

Yaghjian, Lucretia B. "Flannery O'Connor's Use of Symbol, Roger Haight's Christology, and the Religious Writer.`." Theological Studies (2002). Web.

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