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Just some of the last pleading words of the grandmother in the story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. In the story, the author uses colloquialism, point-of-view, foreshadowing, and irony, as well as other rhetorical devices, to portray the satire of southern beliefs and religion throughout the entire piece.
Flannery O’Connor lived most of her life in the southern state of Georgia. When once asked what the most influential things in her life were, she responded “Being a Catholic and a Southerner and a writer.” (1) She uses her knowledge of southern religion and popular beliefs to her advantage throughout the story. Not only does she thoroughly depict the southern dialect, she uses it more convincingly than other authors have previously attempted such as Charles Dickens and Zora Neale Hurston. In other works, the authors frequently use colloquialism so “local” that a reader not familiar with those slang terms, as well as accents, may have difficulty understanding or grasping the meaning of the particular passage. O’Connor not only depicts a genuine southern accent, she allows the characters to maintain some aspect of intelligence, which allows the audience to focus on the meaning of the passage, rather than the overbearing burden of interpreting a rather “foreign language.”
Another device not frequently used before O’Connor is the transition between third-person to first-person point-of-view, the first-person being through the grandmother. In the beginning of the story, she describes how the each of the characters feel towards taking a trip to Florida, as well as hint at the relationships they hold for one another. Then the narrator goes on to describe the grandmother’s personal thoughts and feelings throughout the trip, as well as how she thinks towards the end of the story. We first see the first-person point-of-view when the narrator tells how the grandmother did not want to leave the cat at home alone because he would miss her too much and she feared he would accidentally asphyxiate himself with the burners on the stove. The reason this particular part of the story is considered first-person narration is because it goes directly into the mind of the grandmother, telling why she brought the cat along with her. We also see this first-person narration when Baily’s wife is consistently referred to as the children’s mother, rather than by her name or as Baily’s wife.
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Foreshadowing is also a key factor in showing the irony and satire of the entire piece. One of the moments death is foreshadowed is when the grandmother tells how she is such a lady. “Her collar and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.” Also in the beginning of the story when the grandmother tells her son they cannot go to the entire state of Florida because the Misfit is headed toward Florida, the audience gets a notion that the family will at some point meet with this man. The idea that in the whole state one could possibly run into this one particular man is completely preposterous, that is why when it actually comes true in the end it is so ironic.
Irony plays a very large role in showing the satire of the situation. The first obvious irony, as I stated before, is the implication that they could possibly run into this one man out of over a million people in the state of Florida. The second obvious irony is that the entire reason the family had the accident causing them to meet up with the Misfit is because of the grandmother’s cat that she brought along. Also, the grandmother pleaded with her son to take her to her old house so she could see it one last time, which was the hide out for the Misfit and his gang, but the house she was referring to was not even in Georgia, it was in Tennessee. The most tragic irony of all is when the grandmother proclaims she recognizes the Misfit which forces him to kill the entire family so they cannot go to the authorities. Therefore, the entire story is based upon the irony that the grandmother did not want to go to Florida for the sole purpose of avoiding this murderer, when she in turn leads them directly to him and practically makes him kill them all.
The well contrived southern dialect created by O’Connor, the transitions in point-of-view from third to first-person, the several moments of foreshadowing, and most importantly, the irony that the grandmother did indeed find her “good man,” all show the satire of how the grandmother’s wholesome southern Christian ways led to nothing but despair and death.