Dehumanization in An Excellent Guy is Tough to Discover
Flannery O’Connor was understood for her Southern Gothic storytelling, and her story “A Good Man is Tough to Find” is no exception. The story is embeded in the 1950’s during a dark period of American history when Jim Crow laws continued to segregate citizens. Although not the main focus, O’Connor’s reference to pickaninnies in the text reveals the method mainstream popular culture distributed disgusting stereotypes that further dehumanized black kids by seeing them through a grotesque lens. The grotesque way in which pickaninnies are explained interacts the method they were extensively viewed in society during this era.
They were deemed having, “bulging eyes, big red lips, and they speak in a primitive, stereotypical dialect.” They are typically revealed stuffing their large mouths with watermelon or chicken, which they usually took. They are unkempt, suggesting that their parents are neglectful. Extremely typically they are shown nude, a level of sexualization that is especially uncomfortable due to their age (Caricatures of African Americans … ). The granny’s usage of the term pickaninny, and her continued storytelling drivel, exemplify an unfavorable caricaturization of Southern black kids.
Furthermore, although quick, the grandma’s observations appear to discuss of all elements of what specifies a pickaninny during this time duration. The grandma believes she transcends to others and her condescension is clearly conveyed during a family trip to Florida. Prior to leaving, the granny wished to ensure she was dressed in a ladylike clothing comprised of white cotton gloves, a navy blue straw sailor hat, and a navy blue gown (O’Connor 195-96). Her look was necessary to her, but belies her real nature, which was exposed during their travels.
Her referral to pickaninnies seems to reference the old Southern way of life, and the defects in her character. “Oh take a look at the adorable little pickaninny would not that make a photo, now” (196 ). Her mocking tone appears to match her words, as she even more dehumanizes the child by referring to him as “that and having her whole household turn and stare, as if viewing an animal at the zoo. When June Star comments on his absence of pants, her revulsion is plainly revealed in her presumption.
He most likely didn’t have any ¦ little niggers in the nation do not have things like we do” (196 ). She is more distancing herself from the little young boy by asserting their socioeconomic differences, as the children in the cars and truck stay unfazed by her cruel recommendations to the young black young boy, communicating that this type of language is part of their everyday vernacular, and for that reason unimportant to the children. When she informs the kids a story, she further dehumanizes the Southern black society, as she perpetuates the reputable stereotypes of the South.
She informs of a male courter who brought her a weekly gift of a watermelon, with his initials, E. A. T. carved into the side (O’Connor 197). The simple mention of a watermelon proves foreseeable, as it is another normal stereotype of a pickaninny. She explained a particular Saturday, when she did not get the present, “due to the fact that a nigger young boy ate it when he saw the initials (197 ). The significance behind her story is clear “she is of a superior race and socioeconomic class, and the young boy, another pickaninny, is a mindless burglar.
While the entire story has grotesque undertones from the action to the dialogue spewing from the mouths of the characters, O’Connor appears to shine a light on the moral defects of the grandmother by exposing her racist beliefs. The effective juxtaposition of a granny and the hateful words she gushes throughout the story expose the prevalent racism in the South during the Jim Crow period. Through the grandma’s degrading descriptions and her story, in which she dehumanizes young black kids, the audience is exposed to how generationally, racism and intolerance is learned, and not inherent behavior.