Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The torch song A Good Man Is Hard to Find sung here by Bessie Smith was an inspiration.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1953) is one of the strangest and grotesque stories from the pen of the Southern Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964)

Here is a recording from 1959 of Flannery O’Connor herself reading A Good Man is Hard to Find at Vanderbilt University.

The text was made into a very short and not very successful film Black Hearts Bleed Red in 1992

The three main characters are Bailey, the Grandmother and The Misfit. Bailey has a wife and three children. He and his family are preparing for a trip from Atlanta to Florida by car. Accompanying them is the Grandmother. On the way on a dirt road they come across The Misfit a dangerous escaped prisoner. He and his gang kill the family in cold blood.

The climax to the story is strange and horrific:

The Misfit has already directed the execution of the Grandmother's entire family, and it must be obvious to all, including reader and Grandmother, that she is the next to die. But she struggles on.

Grasping at any appeal, and hardly aware of what she is saying, the Grandmother declares to the Misfit: "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" As she utters these shocking words, "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"

It is a profoundly disturbing work on the nature of evil and Grace.

The Misfit has faith and believes in Jesus and the Resurrection, He says:
"Jesus thown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn't committed any crime . . . Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead . . . and He shouldn't have done it. He thown everything off balance ... "
He goes on:
"I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't [rise from the dead] ," The Misfit said. "I wisht I had of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist. "It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady," he said in a high voice, "if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now."
He does not lack reason. Indeed at times he seems the most rational person in the group. He says:
""If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,"
He is the man without Love, without Charity.