For full disclosure, let me begin by saying I am not a Roman Catholic but if I ever wished to be one it would be so that I might come to a better understanding of the fiction of Flannery O’Connor. On the surface, the characters in these stories are grotesque, the action violent, the outcome nearly always heartbreaking. But it is really grace and redemption which are at the heart of everything O’Connor is trying to show us through her dark wit and keenly focussed eye on the world around her, which in this case is the Bible Belt South. O’Connor’s stories hang on the reader long after she has spoken and it is the title story of this collection which really lives at the heart of all of her work. A good man is hard to find. Indeed. And yet it is the human condition and in our very nature that we will not stop trying to be one. This work is just fascinating to me. A freakishly bleak roller coaster ride through the human soul where the author’s voice achieves the miraculous, succeeding on both a literary and religious level. If there is a writer who knew more about the human heart, sin, and the power of redemption I haven’t found them. Consider the quote below, from the title story, in which an entire family is murdered at the side of the road by an escaped convict known as “The Misfit” and his accomplices. After shooting the last of the family — an elderly, unlikeable grandmother who will not stop talking but who achieves her moment of grace right before her death — the men have this conversation.
“She was a talker, wasn’t she?” Bobby Lee said, sliding down the ditch with a yodel.
“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
“Some fun!” Bobby Lee said.
“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. ”