The Stories of Flannery O’Connor and Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Updated: Apr 24, 2021
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The Stories of Flannery O’Connor and Nathaniel Hawthorne essay

People generally prefer to see themselves as smart, generous, kind, patient and forgiving most of the time. But life isn’t ideal. People aren’t perfect and simply cannot be nice and good 100% of the time. When people are honest with themselves they actually have some pretty scary and embarrassing flaws that are preferred to be avoided at all costs. One of the biggest obstacles out there on the path to wholeness is judgmentalism. The stories “A Good Man is hard to find ”by Flannery O’Connor, and “ Young Good Man Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne takes readers on a journey of corrupted ideals and harsh judgment. Being a judgemental person essentially means thinking, speaking, or behaving in a manner that reflects a critical and condemnatory point of view. People that are judgmental are critically nitpicking and finding fault with others, ideas, or situation. 

From examining “A good man is hard to find” (Flannery O’Connor) and ” Young good man brown” (Nathaniel Hawthorne) it is clear that being judgmental can be dangerous. The grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” definition of “good” is quite skewed. She considers the things men do and say makes them a good man. The grandmother’s actions alone are very judgemental. In O’Connor ’s, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” the story begins with the family deciding to take a trip to Florida. The grandmother is a manipulative woman she does not value her life as it is but longs for her life in the past. 

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“People are certainly not nice like they used to be” (455), O’Connor’s grandmother is a judgmental and self-centered person who is not aware of her flaws. She is eventually faced with death. Her judgemental actions led her to this point. She is misjudged by the misfit and he misjudges her. In closing, sometimes it’s good to get to know people or situations before passing judgment. Like these characters in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Young Goodman”, they forgot to use logic and not pass judgment. Passing judgment in the ways they did got them into situations that could have been avoided. The grandmother seems to have all the characteristics of what a good person isn’t, totally opposite. A good person doesn’t judge others based on what they do not have. After she gives her grandchildren John and June Starr a lecture about being a good person, the grandmother says, “Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could, I’d paint that picture” (Walls 44). 

What makes this situation worse is that she says she would paint that picture knowing she isn’t an artist so that’s her way of being sarcastic. She can’t imagine him having things like that. It would be impossible for her to really paint that picture because she just doesn’t see that happening. She says she’s a “good woman” while still doing all the wrong things. In order to be defined as a good person in general, people have to do good deeds; she doesn’t. 

“But beyond the self-discovering, the grandmother’s encounter with The Misfit test her religious beliefs, and in doing so, unfolds the mystery of good and evil” (150). She knows she is a bad person and she only thinks about herself. She thinks that admitting that the way she lived as far as the type of person she is, is the wrong way of living and that will change The Misfit’s mind. She says she’s a “good woman” while still doing all the wrong things. In order to be defined as a good person in general, people have to do good deeds; she doesn’t. “But beyond the self-discovering, the grandmother’s encounter with The Misfit test her religious beliefs, and in doing so, unfolds the mystery of good and evil” (150). She knows she is a bad person and she only thinks about herself. She thinks that admitting that the way she lived as far as the type of person she is, is the wrong way of living and that will change The Misfit’s mind. 

In conclusion, the grandmother shows her selfishness during different encounters throughout the story. Although she is the opposite of what a good person is, she still considers herself a good woman. Not only does she lack self-awareness, but she is also judgmental, dishonest, and forgetful. The story could’ve ended differently if the grandmother hadn’t been so prideful about her self-image.

Maybe she would’ve had a second chance at living if she hadn’t annoyed The Misfit so much, leaving him with no other options but to kill her The grandmother is the biggest misfit of the story. It seemed like her family had had enough of her poisonous character. From the beginning of the story, the children could see the way she was trying to get what she wanted by trying to make Bailey feel bad for taking them where there was an escaped convict, and how it would be advantageous for them to know others parts of the world. 

“If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay home?” The grandmother is the misfit of the story because she does not seem to fit in with her son’s family. It looks like the whole family ignores her, “Bailey didn’t look up from his reading…… The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her.” I think that they did not want to take her to their family trip. The grandmother does not want to go to Florida, she wants to go to East Tennessee. She tries to change Bailey’s mind by mentioning “The Misfit,” a serial killer that had escaped from the authorities and is headed to Florida. 

“I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that a loose in it.” Then, her excuse was that they had already been to Florida. Even though she didn’t want to go to, she was the first one in the car with her cat going against Bailey’s will. The grandmother tried to talk the Misfit out of it by mentioning that he was a good man, “ I just know you’re a good man,”… “You’re not a bit common!” She also started talking about God, she asked if he prayed and that by praying Jesus would help him. I guess she asked that question to know what were his thoughts about God and if he was really a good man. “Do you ever pray?”…. “Pray, Pray,”—Flannery O’Connor. “She would have been a good woman”, the Misfit said. “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” I feel as if that quote almost describes how bad the grandmother was at actually taking the time to THINK before she spoke. 

“I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it.” The Misfit speaks these words near the end of the story, just before sending the children’s mother, the baby, and June Star into the woods to be shot. The Misfit has told the grandmother that he had been punished for a crime that he can’t remember, and this is the lesson he has taken away from it. According to Misfit’s theory, no matter what the crime, large or small, the punishment will be the same—even if one never remembers what one did. This idea of being punished for an unremembered crime alludes to the Christian belief in original sin. 

“She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” This quotation, at the end of the story, reveals the Misfit’s understanding of what has occurred in the grandmother’s final moments, and he seems to recognize two things about her. First, he fully understands that despite her obvious belief in her moral superiority—which she conveys through her self-proclaimed identification as a “lady” and religious instruction—the grandmother is not, in fact, a good woman. She is flawed and weak, and her age grants her no particular rights for respect or reverence. Second, the Misfit recognizes that when facing death, the grandmother has the capacity to be a good woman. In her final moments, she foregoes the moral high ground she’d staunchly held and instead embraces her and the Misfit’s common humanity. 

The Misfit observes this shift and seems to realize what it means: if the grandmother could have lived her life at gunpoint, so to speak, she could have gained the self-awareness and compassion that she’d lacked In Young Goodman Brown, the protagonist, Goodman Brown embarks, on a demonic mission where he consorts with the devil, and judges his fellow men. With the devil’s influence, he concludes that all men are evil and from that point forward judges them as being evil. In The Birthmark, Aylmer sins by judging differently than Goodman Brown. Rather than judge man, Aylmer judges nature, more specifically, the flaws that exist within nature. Aylmer and Goodman Brown sin by judging and both thus face a punishment. 

In Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne focuses on the judgment of humanity through the use of protagonist Goodman Brown. Goodman Brown leaves his home one day, either in dream or reality, to consort with the devil. He travels until he arrives at a demonic funeral controlled by Satan. Upon arrival, Goodman Brown is initiated into a commune based on the decree that all men are evil. Goodman Brown thereby becomes a character who judges humanity ” My faith is gone! cried he, after one stupefied moment. There is no good on earth, and is but a name. Come, Devil; for to thee is this world given.” 

Hawthorne implies that Goodman Browns greatest sin is judgment. He sins by becoming one of the Devils followers, but in Hawthorne’s eyes commits an even greater sin by judging others. That he has judged becomes apparent when Goodman Brown begins to invest in the Devils decree: Lo, there ye stand, my children, said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. ” Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race. ” 

Good man Brown represents an ordinary, naïve young man, a newlywed who has always believed what adults have told him was true. His wife Faith represents his Puritan religious faith–of course, since her name is “Faith” after all, and she wears those innocent pink ribbons in her hair. Brown seems to accept the devil’s half-true version that everyone is a hypocrite, hiding secret and horrible sins no matter how goody-goody they appear. As the devil asserts, some people do indeed commit murder or sadistic persecution or a myriad of other sins. But everybody? Surely Brown forgets that Sin, universal as it is, is not the whole story. He also judges mere interest in sin to be as bad as actually worshiping the Devil. 

Faith’s simple presence in the forest is enough for him to lose her, even though he awakens from his experience not knowing her actual answer to the Devil’s invitation. Though he doesn’t keep faith with Faith the next morning, Faith keeps faith with him, welcoming him home with trust and affection. Her continuing love signals the possibility of a relationship based on something other than cynicism about all human motives. Goodman Brown seems to be upset and disappointed in his wife and treats his wife like it is her fault that he lost his faith and enthusiasm for life. 

Later, there is another instance of Goodman Brown reacting toward his wife as if she had done something wrong and as if it was her fault, though it never even said if Faith accepted the Devil’s invitation or obeyed her husband’s command to “look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one” (Hawthorne, 12). Goodman Brown seems to automatically assume that his wife accepted the Devil’s invitation and treats his wife as lesser than himself. The narrator explains that “Often awakening suddenly at midnight, he (Goodman Brown) shrank from the bosom of Faith; and at morning or eventide when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away (13). 

In this part also, Goodman Brown seems to be accusing his wife and also reacting to his loss of faith by not praying publicly or privately showing faith in God. He seems to be treating his wife too harshly and not really accepting the fact that he did the same exact thing too. If he is guilty of the same exact thing, why is he so judgmental and so cruel to his wife? The stories “A Good Man is hard to find ”by Flannery O’Connor by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “ Young Good Man brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne takes readers on a journey of spiritual ideals that turn into realization of human dishonesty for Brown (Hawthorne) and a new sense of compassion for Grandmother (O’Connor). Both characters share a few similarities and in the end, are faced with their own mortality. 

On his journey, Young Goodman Brown encounters a man with a staff with a serpent on the end. Coincidentally, Young Goodman Brown also comes across several people he knows from society. “As he spoke, he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame ” (par 26 Hawthorne). When he depicts the man with the serpent staff as the devil, Brown comes to the realization that a lot of the people around him are sinners. This leads Brown to question the decency of the people around him. “My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. 

“There is no good on earth, and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.” (par 50 Hawthorne). In the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, O’Connor depicts a family’s vacation to Florida that turned into a tragedy when they met with the Misfit, a convict who escaped from prison. The Story follows a families trip particularly the grandmother and their unfortunate run-in with a lawbreaker (Misfit) that turns deadly. Two Similarities that both Brown and the Grandmother share are an uncompromising view of the world from the beginning of their stories that alter towards the conclusion. 

“On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation was singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain” (par 78 Hawthorne). The Grandmother is finally able to view others with compassion “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children” (par 136 O’Connor). A key difference between the two characters is selfishness that the Grandmother exhibits as well. As her family is being systematically murdered she never begs for the misfit to spare her children or grandchildren nor does she show regard for their lives. She repeatedly questions the misfit “You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?”. 

On the other hand brown does not want to worry his wife and even keeps his journey a secret from her promising to cling to her after the night is over “she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven” (par 7 Hawthorne). Overall both characters end their prospective journies with a different outlook than they entered with. For Brown, he sees the evilness that everyone is capable of and for the Grandmother when facing death she is finally to able to look at others with compassion.

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The Stories of Flannery O’Connor and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from