As earlier investigated in Sonnys Blues by James Baldwin in my earlier paper, the theme of hopelessness was very apparent in the course of reading it. Numerous instances showed hopelessness very well presented. Subsequently, this paper analyzes the theme of hopelessness in A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery OConnor. A compare and contrast approach will be used to compare lines of thought presented in the two literary works.
Hopelessness was specifically presented in A good man is hard to find in many ways as the author tries to show the misconceived meaning of a good man, who the grandmother tries to define. In the course of finding this good man, the grandmother names Red Sammy and the Misfit as good in a desperate attempt to find a truly good man.
One of the similar things that one finds is the concept of hopelessness in the two stories, especially in their subject matter. In Sonnys Blues, hopelessness is presented as a result of the poor lifestyles that the African American populations have to endure while living in the United States. Sonny is having an especially hard time coping with life, especially after failing to keep his promise of taking care of his brother alongside the death of his daughter. The result is that he now leads an unkempt and strangely paradoxical life. In a parallel thought, the grandmother in a good man is hard to find is having quite the challenge finding the definition of a truly good man. When Red Sammy complains to her about the nature of people and especially about how they stole gasoline from him, he excuses him because he is a good man. However, good men are depicted as those who are sensible, gullible in a way and lack proper judgement of character. As a result, the hopelessness for finding a good man begins to show itself.
Thereafter, the grandmother meets the Misfit. During this encounter, she asks him whether he would shoot a lady. The Misfit, however, doesnt say that he would not. But the grandmothers belief in being a lady as a significant part of morality and the conflicting answer that the Misfit gives proves that indeed he is not a good man. Nonetheless, the grandmother goes on to name his as good in a way of calling out to some deep conscious knowledge that he is good. This is not the case, however. In comparing the two ideas that present hopelessness, therefore, we can see that there was hopelessness on characters in both stories. On the one hand, Sonnys life circumstances cause him to lead a hopeless life due to his inabilities. On the other hand, the grandmother shows her desperate attempts at gaining mileage in finding a good man in characters where little goodness in fact existed.
A revelation thus dawns in the readers mind that the grandmothers definition of good was solely based on whether the mans values and her own were aligned. This idea becomes significantly different with the cause of hopelessness for Sonny. While the grandmothers hopelessness in finding a truly good man is fueled by internal factors, Sonnys hopelessness is due to a combination of external factors that he doesnt have control over. Sonnys Blues records, through a flashback, how his father underwent mental degradation as a result of racial discrimination and Sonnys friend fears for his safety. Therefore, it would appear that a combination of external factors is fueling Sonnys hopeless state, including the death of his daughter and a feeling of helplessness about the state of his brother.
In contrast, it is the grandmothers subjective approach to goodness that causes her misfortunes in finding a good man. Aligning ones goodness with her own interest will definitely bring out the selfish interests in another person that are common to her, thus frustrating her journey in finding a truly good man. For example, Red Sammy is only good because he trusts blindly and looks back to a time when people were more innocent something that the grandmother can relate with. This is opposed to becoming wise and knowing that people are not always as trustworthy as they may present themselves.
In considering the two texts, another aspect equally shows itself love in the face of hopeless situations and its effect on the persons involved. In A good man is hard to find, the grandmother and the Misfits are all recipients of grace. Such grace has covered their many weaknesses and past mistakes to redeem them from their truly tainted pasts. This is the same message preached in Christian theology, that God has the ability to redeem people through love and grace despite their weaknesses. Indeed the grandmother, who lies to grandchildren, manipulates her children and goes on about the better past and the bad present is not a candidate for any kind of heaven. Yet, the kind of love presented by grace comes to both of them when the grandmother exclaims, Youre one of my own children! this was a show of compassion that proved that both the grandmother and the Misfit had a human side that was graceful and good.
Similarly, the experience of love is what maintained Sonny in his near-hopeless life. His love for his brother caused him to educate his brother as a musician, similar to how one would educate his child. Sonny loves on his brother not only as a duty to his late mother, but as a show of love for his brother. Despite his wrongdoings, even a conviction for possession of heroin, the bond of love between friends shows a caring attitude in making sure that Sonny doesnt go over the edge.
In conclusion, we can see the similar instances of hopelessness in the two texts. In one, finding a good man proves to be a hopeless task as the finder themselves are not good they have their own interests at heart. In Sonnys Blues, hopelessness is the result of uncontrollable circumstances that rock Sonnys life. However, love comes to the rescue of the characters in the story. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, love from a higher being sweeps in to give grace to the least deserving, while the love of family and friends rescues Sonny from a lifetime of misery. The themes of hopelessness and resultant love are thus well presented in the texts.
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