Realism in American literature opened a new period in the whole society. Reading the literature pieces, written by various authors during this period of time, most of the stories dwell upon the real life stressing the everyday human activities, social processes and thoughts. It is essential to keep in mind that realism in American literature has a number of particular characteristics, which perfectly define its nature. Realism in American literature is characterized by the emphasis on verisimilitude in human actions and relationships. Realism pays much more attention to personalities than to their actions. Striking characteristics of the realism, it is important to mention attention to details, presence of the ethical choice, plausible events, and close consideration of morality in the real life situations. A realistic character is never an ideal hero; he/she is always a close-to-reality individuality interested in personal claims. A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a short story by O’Connor written in the best rules of the realism with the particular examples of how integrity withstands morality, of personal sympathy, of emotions, real locations, and other particular examples, which make the story real.
Integrity vs. Morality
A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a short story, which in the final scenes of communication between the grandmother and the Misfit confronts integrity to morality. Having all the members of the family being killed and staying at the threshold of the death, the grandmother changes her tactics; she forgets about all the moral issues and principles, and shows her integrity; moreover, she presents her inner being. From the very beginning of the story, it is possible to see that the grandmother is a person, who searches for personal interest everywhere, “The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind” (O’Connor 31). Each time she did something, she tried to focus on the personal interest. Therefore, when the choice between being killed or trying to save her life appeared, she showed who she was. This is a particular feature of realism, to show human inner world as it is by means of expressing their characters rather than stressing on the actions and events. The battle between integrity and morality also can be seen in the Misfit. Being a murder, he is supposed to be strong in his evil thoughts; however, the words of the grandmother make him think about his morality for several minutes creating another reality. Nevertheless, integrity wins, and the Misfit kills the grandmother like all others.
The theme of sympathy and the expression of emotions is another characteristic feature, which proves the story to be realistic. Both, the grandmother and the Misfit show sympathy at different stages of the telling. The protagonist (the grandmother) tries to assure the Misfit that she feels sympathy to him saying by means of murmuring, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” and then by means “reaching out and touching him on the shoulder” (O’Connor 51). The antagonist does not feel any sympathy to the grandmother. He just concludes that, “She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (O’Connor 51). Sympathy as a confirmation of the reality in the story is opposed to the absence of it having underlined the cruelty of the modern world. The antagonist’s indifference to the people he has killed shows him as a person of the real world. It is possible to see that most of people in the modern world are indifferent to others, thinking only about their personal interests. The grandmother’s sympathy is just the way to remain alive; it is just the expression of anything to remain safe.
There are numerous emotions in the short story, and each scene discloses the characters’ emotions via their thoughts and actions. However, showing the actions, the author stresses the particular purpose of these events not the actions itself, which is one of the features of realism in American literature. The emotions described in the story include anger, irritation, sympathy, jealousy, fear, etc. The grandmother is the main character in the story, and she constantly shows her irritation and dissatisfaction with everything others do. Going to the car, she waits for the worse; however, this particular feeling is a mask, because having appeared in a stressful situation she shrunk in the face of danger. Her emotional state was just a mask not to show her real feelings. Being a miserable person, the grandmother tried to impose everyone that she is a loving and caring person. The rapid change of emotions takes place, when the grandmother faces danger. First, she is irritated, than she is angry, further she wants to position herself as helpless and being afraid of the Misfit. Moreover, she also tries to assure him to be a gentleman and, finally, she shows her false love.
Obvious Settings and Realistic Cause and Effect
The realism is added to the story by means of obvious settings and realism in cause and effect. Florida and east Tennessee are the settings used in the story. The author wanted to be as realistic as possible while describing the landscapes during the trip. The characteristic feature of realism is the use of existing places and cities for describing the events making them more related to the truth. Moreover, if to follow the events in the story, it is obvious that all the actions are finished with the reasonable conclusions, without any romantic or imaginary issue. Having decided to go to the east Tennessee, the grandmother does all possible to go there and no mystery appears in their choice of direction. Having met a murderer, all the members of the family are killed as it should be in the real world. The author does not want to make the story more impressive by means of adding something imaginary. Everything in the story is how it should be in reality.
Therefore, it may be concluded that the short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find is written in the rules of the realism trend of American literature. The author did all possible to make sure that the story is going to be perceived as something obvious and real. O’Connor has managed to achieve this particular realism in the story by means of contradicting integrity to morality, personal sympathy, emotions, real locations, and other particular examples, which have make the story realistic from the very beginning till the end.