Empathy in An Excellent Man is Difficult to Discover
Flannery O’Connor’s “An Excellent Man Is Hard to Discover” is a short story concerned with Christian themes of empathy and redemption, particularly as experienced through the narrative arc of the grandmother character whose existence structures not only the story’s plot but also its most compelling styles. The grandmother’s narrative arc begins with her distaste at the idea of traveling to Florida where she does not believe anybody could take their kids in great faith considering the rumored presence of an unsafe fugitive in the location.
This shows the grandma’s “fallen” state where her motivations are grounded in social propriety and utility. For example, her thinking for using such fancy clothing on a car trip is rooted in a desire to identify herself as a “girl” even in death should they experience a fatal accident on the path south. This propensity to want to different herself within society ends up being even more apparent when they pass a black kid on the road whose pant-less state she credits to a distinction in between black people in the nation and people like those in her family: “Little niggers in the nation do not have things like we do” (Flannery).
Furthermore, she discusses that the entire reason she saw the black kid to begin with was since she believed he would be a perfect subject for a painting. And, while she doesn’t intricate why this is a particularly stunning scene, we can presume that it is since the young boy is a verification of her fortunate status as an elderly white female with a well-to-do kid who can afford to take his family on trip. In fact, the grandma’s brief encounter with the young boy has a tourist-like quality: she experiences the kid just in quick death however is seemingly able to theorize a good deal about his entire socio-economic status.
Her analysis checks out hence: the boy does not have trousers due to the fact that black individuals in the country are not just different from her family however different socio-economically. The fact that she wishes to catch the experience in a painting is akin to wanting a keepsake to bring home from a trip to an unique land where individuals live in circumstances entirely various from their own. In addition, like a traveler, she takes note of relatively unimportant information like the number revealing on the odometer in order to transform the info into a story about the range traveled on their journey that can be shared with others upon their return.
Her desire to “paint” the black kid might also be read as a desire to experience the world through its mere token appearance (memento). These are indicative of the grandma’s “fallen” state: she associates greater significance to the official appearance of the world around her than to its substance, a dialectical stress that she passes through over the course of the story. The family car crash could then read as the outcome of the internal clash between the grandmother’s traveler fantasy about the world and its actual presence.
The inspiration for the cat getting on Bailey’s shoulder (which in turn triggers him to veer the family vehicle into the ditch) is a literal cognitive reconciliation of the grandmother’s harshness about the supposed place of the strange house which she initially believed remained in Georgia however realized was in fact in Tennessee. Hence the crash likewise symbolizes the grandma leaving her fallen state; the rest of the story involves her concerning terms with the nature of the Misfit and the cruelty he and atrioventricular bundle of miscreants display.
Throughout the household’s experience with the Misfit, the grandmother anxiously tries to appeal to the “great nature” of the gang who eventually murder them. She argues that the males should lack “common blood” and, as a result, be a kind of individuals who would never turn to eliminating other human beings. The basis for this argument is simply her intuition: “you should not call yourself The Misfit due to the fact that I understand you’re a great guy at heart. I can just look at you and inform”, she discusses. But as her pleading proves useless, she experiences an extensive change and her attract the Misfit take on the quality of a recognition.
She sees the twisted visage of the Misfit and instead of recoiling at the scary occurring around her as her household is murdered she sees within him a terrific suffering and determines him as one of her own children. In this, her minute of clarity, the grandmother reaches out and touches the Misfit in a gesture of pure Christ-like compassion in which she sees the harsh man as her own kid simply as Jesus of Nazareth saw even those who murdered him as fellow kids of the very same Heavenly Father.
And, simply as Jesus died since of the blasphemous nature of his compassion, so too is the grandmother killed as the Misfit shoots her three times in reaction to her simple touch. The grandma’s death is where she has actually finally exited her fallen state and accepted Christ’s most long-lasting quality: a capability for unlimited empathy and love. The grandmother began the story as a traveler, experiencing the world in only its superficial qualities however through the harrowing experience with the Misfit, she has the ability to see things for what they truly are.
While we are never ever able to validate the Misfit’s account of what “punishments” were caused upon him, the granny’s Christ-like empathy is sufficiently apparent in that she sees him as the result of scenario and not heredity. Through the sheer horror of the situation, the grandmother is able to see past the social convention that blinded her and accomplish redemption by seeing the great inside even the most harsh and potentially wicked guy she had ever experienced.