This is my first O’Connor, which seems strange as a Catholic raised in the American South (maybe if I had gone to a catholic school?) and it is both fascinating and darkly comic, which I don’t know that I was ready for.
O’Connor is asking the reader what does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be moral? Tthose questions are the heart of A Good Man is Hard to Find, and then doubled down by making it the title piece of her first collection and the story she most often chose for readings or talks to students. Which is an interesting choice in and of itself – why a tale about a family that haplessly wandered their ways to their deaths, but deaths that on the whole the reader feels little remorse for?
O’Connor juxtaposes a very mundane day and a very mundane character in that of the grandmother with a confrontation of a family faced with unexpected violence and sudden death. While this story has a slow start (which after reading The Lottery seems part and parcel of short stories of this era) it is certainly a provocative story expressing the author’s view on the world through grotesque situations where the principal character faces a problem of salvation.
I’m only rating this three stars, but that’s not to say that this is a failure in any larger even though I found it brief and uneven at times. Whatever O’Connor’s doing, she’s obviously very good at it. She’s playing in the Southern Gothic genre: this story contains distorted characters and sinister situations, uneasy atmosphere, as if something terrible is on the verge of happening because it is and racial prejudice is on display both front and center and simmering in the background. O’Connor mixes comedy, violence, and religious concerns in this story giving a microcosm of her work and while I’m not racing back for more, I know I’ll return.