Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, grew up in a segregated southern community in the 1930s. Her works reflect the influence of her faith in their subtle, often ironic, critique of humanity’s sinful nature, as well as their allusions to an omnipresent God through characters’ epiphanies. In her short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” O’Connor depicts a racist grandmother. The grandmother mocks a poor African American child on the side of the road in order to highlight her lack of empathy for other humans. Toward the end of the novel, she meets the Misfit, a criminal on the loose. The Misfit and the grandmother engage in conversation about the Misfit’s troubled life. In her final moments, she realizes her flaw of discrimination against others. The grandmother experiences a revelation of God’s love through accepting her own flaws as well as the Misfit’s. Although the Misfit murders her, the grandmother dies with the ability to show compassion for others .Through her works O’Connor highlights the tendency humans have to sin, but also God’s influence on humans’ spirituality.
The depiction of a sinful humanity in O’Connor’s stories finds echoes in the reality of the assassinations of presidents James Garfield and William McKinley. Their assassins, Charles Guiteau and Leon Czolgosz, committed the crime of murder; but their motives differed. . Guiteau’s unstable mind caused him believed that the president owed him a position in the White House. Feelings of betrayal clouded Guiteau’s mind after his perceived rejection from the president. As a result, Guiteau decided to take revenge by removing the president in 1881. In Leon Czolgosz’s case, he lost his job as a result of an economic depression in the late nineteenth century. Angry with the government, he adopted anarchist views, and, like Guiteau, he plotted to kill the president in 1901. Despite differing causes, the assassinations resulted in similar effects. Americans grieved together and their hatred toward the assassins brought Americans closer in unity as a nation. The motives behind the murders proved to be contrasting while the response of the citizens proved to be somewhat similar.
Major Works Consulted:
Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic . New York: Doubleday & Company, 2011.
Photo Credit: Andrea Kovacs Henderson, ed. “Flannery O’Connor.” Abridged Encyclopedia of World Bibliography . Farmington Hills, MA: Gale Group, 1999.
Miller, Scott. The President and the Assassin. New York: Random, 2011.
O’Connor, Flannery. The Violent Bear it Away. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988.
--. Wise Blood. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co, 1962.