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Thoughts On A Good Man is Hard to Find & Parker's Back

Updated on July 20, 2009

A Good Man is Hard to Find & Parker's Back

I wanted to write something about A Good Man is Hard to Find and Parker’s Back because I loved how Flannery O’Connor ended the stories so bluntly and in a way where nothing is sugar-coated. She could have ended the stories in a way which would be somewhat less horrific to the reader, but I think she wrote realistically. I also liked A Good Man is Hard to Find because it reminded me of Jackson’s The Lottery with that brutal ending. By examining these two stories together I could see the similarities and differences more easily.

There are some comparisons between Flannery O’Conner’s A Good Man is Hard to Find and Parker’s back, the first is simply the beginning of the two stories. The first sentence of both stories is quick and to the point written in no more than eleven words. In the midst of the short sentence O’Connor also introduces the main character so that the reader is immediately plunged into the story. In A Good Man is Hard to Find she starts the story with the quick character introduction: “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.” This is also done in Parker’s Back: “Parker’s wife was sitting on the front porch, snapping beans.”

The most prominent comparisons between these two stories is the presence of religion. The Grandmother in A Good Man is Hard to Find doesn’t entirely reveal herreligious side until she is faced with The Misfit and his cronies. After gunshots are heardfrom the woods where Bobby Lee shot Bailey and John Wesley, the Grandmother tells The Misfit to pray to Jesus multiple times. The Grandmother also uses religion to avert The Misfit from killing her when she says: “You’ve got Blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady!…Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady.” At the same time I think the Grandmother begins to doubt her religious effect when The Misfit explains that she can’t save herself and only Jesus is able to raise the dead. The Grandmother is on the verge of giving up when she says: “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead.” I also think she takes on a Christ-like figure just before she dies when she reaches out to The Misfit calling him her child, it reminded me of Jesus reaching out to heal lepers.

The religious tones in Parker’s Back are more obvious in that I think the story is mainly about Parker trying to gain acceptance from his religious wife Sarah by getting a tattoo of God on his back. I also noticed that the main characters of these two stories only bring God and religion into the picture when they are faced with traumatic circumstances. The Grandmother only tells The Misfit to pray once her son and grandson are taken away to be shot and in the case of Parker he begins to think of God when he runs his tractor into the tree. When he survives O’Connor wrote: “…if he had known how to cross himself he would have done it.” Right after this incident he gets the tattoo of the Byzantine Christ on his back and in doing this he expects his wife to accept him, but sheonly thinks of the tattoo as idolatry.

Since both stories carried the theme of religion there were symbols of this in the text. When the Grandmother was shot three times in the chest it reminded me of The Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while the pool of blood could be a symbol of atonement of sins. When Parker crashed his tractor into the tree which burst into flames that also reminded me of the burning bush from Exodus.

The two main characters of these stories are both similar in the way that they are both outcasts. The only people who speak to the Grandmother are her grandchildren who don’t speak fondly of her either, but the only time she is taken seriously by her son is when he yells at her and makes her cry. Even her last seconds of life are spent trying toget on the same level as The Misfit, but in the end he only shoots her three times in the chest when she touches his shoulder. This is equal to Parker because he doesn’t seem to have anything in common with his wife and she puts him down calling his tattoos the“Vanity of all vanities.” Just like when the Grandmother tries to connect with the Misfit, Parker tries to connect to his wife through the Byzantine Christ tattoo.

The differences between A Good Man is Hard to Find and Parker’s Back is the mortality rate. In A Good Man is Hard to Find six out of nine characters are killed while there are no murders in Parker’s Back (unless Sarah‘s broom swatting incident is considered attempted murder). Another difference is that I found it easier to pick out the antagonist in Parker’s Back who I thought was Sarah. However, In A Good Man is Hard to Find there could be many views on who the antagonist is. I thought that any of the characters could be the antagonist, even the Grandmother could be because she was the one who got everyone in the situation with The Misfit. The last difference was that I thought there was more foreshadowing in A Good Man is Hard to Find than Parker’s Back which seemed to have very little foreshadowing. There seemed to be foreshadowing of coming events on every other page with the newspaper, Red Sammy’s comment, and the dangerous-looking dirt road that eventually led to their demise.


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      Reader 5 years ago

      Thank you for this post. It was insightful and helpful. :)