Religious Symbolism In O Connor's Grotesque

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Haunted by the aftermath of World War II, contemporary America conveyed its anxieties and sufferings through various forms of art, including literature, and turned to these art forms for a spark of hope or comfort in the midst of the dark, postwar era. Consequently, Contemporary Literature is not only a term that defines a certain time period in which literature is produced, but it also expresses a particular type of style and quality of writing. Much of this style has been influenced by the horrors of World War II, and the different perspectives and world views that derived from these horrors post-war. Two prevailing questions that the aftermath of war raised and that Contemporary Literature often reflects is whether there is an existence…show more content…
The grotesque is “characterized by bizarre distortions, especially in the exaggerated or abnormal depiction of human features,” and “the literature of the grotesque involves freakish caricatures of people’s appearance and behavior” (Baldick 93). A character becomes grotesque “because of one particular incident or event,” and as a result, “their lives are distorted, disfigured and maimed” (Lihua 301). In the case of the Misfit, the grotesque antagonist of O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the event that warps him into a psychopathic murderer is the moment he was accused of murdering his father and sent to prison. However, the Misfit shares an exchange with the grandmother at the end of the story that O’Connor suggests is an exchange of grace. When the Misfit holds the grandmother and her family hostage in the woods, a discussion takes place between the Misfit and the grandmother about the Misfit’s innocence and his childhood. During this conversation, the grandmother hears gunshots coming from the forest where the Misfit’s men, Bobby Lee and Hiram, had taken the grandmother’s son,…show more content…
The grandmother realizes what is happening to her son and his family, so she begins to chant “pray, pray” as if she is calling out to God for help (O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, 149). The grandmother even asks the Misfit if he prays, and after hearing his story about how he believes he was falsely accused of committing a crime that sent him to the penitentiary, the grandmother comments that the moment he was falsely accused should have been when he started praying. She states “if you would pray… Jesus would help you,” which insinuates that faith and repentance make a pardon from God possible for the Misfit, and thus, reinforces the presence of a God. (O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, 150). As the novel progresses, the presence of a God becomes even more dominate because the grandmother seems to take the form of God himself. The grandmother reaches out to the Misfit and says to him “why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, 152). This line consists of religious symbolism because it alludes to the concept of people being the children of God. In this part of the story, it can be interpreted that the grandmother is a representation of Jesus and holds the grace that the grotesque Misfit
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