Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Traits, Dialog, and Colors of O’Conner (Annotation G3-9/Goddard)

The sampling of Flannery O’Conner’s stories: “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “The Artificial Nigger,” and “Good Country People,” a haunting picture of the Southern United States is painted often in yellow. Thematically, the traits of characters, reveling dialog and the use of color are the shared aspects of these three stories.
Family relationships are important aspects of these stories. Within the family relationships of each story, generations, and breaches in generational understandings is the basis of each character’s trait. “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” begins simply with “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida,” (O’Conner 9). The Grandmother inevitably goes to Florida with her son and his family. The Grandmother holds fast to the traditions she was born into, pride for their state of Georgia and a condescending racial view of black people. Her grandchildren, conversely, have nothing positive to say about Georgia and have irreverence to their grandmother. As the family wheels southward to Florida the rising tensions are shifted from the escaped murder (the Misfit) to the Grandmother’s childhood home. As the Grandmother persists on the detour, the father acquiesces, which is when the accident occurs.
The accident to occur in the second story “The Artificial Nigger,” is the shift between the two main characters, Mr. Head, the grandfather, and Nelson the child. O’Connor’s use of physical description of these two lend to the potency of their dialog, “for Mr. head had a youthful expression by daylight, while the boy’s look was ancient,” (O’Conner 105). Their banter is paradoxical, especially as the boy gives the old man a reprimand after he has forgotten lunch and gotten the two of them lost in the city. The young boy comes around during an accident with an old woman who claims he has broken her ankle. The old man denies relation with the boy and causally leaves him on the street.
Effects of dialog are as important in the third piece, “Good Country People.” The like the other two stories, O’Connor has extracted the title of each story from a character’s statement. When Mrs. Hopewell meets the young bible salesman she states: “Why, she cried, good country people are the salt of the earth,” (O’Conner 179). Much as the tradition of the three stories, “Good Country People,’ has a fitting if not ironical ending with the young bible salesman being the opposite of a good country person when he steals the daughter’s artificial limb.
The use of the color yellow is in every story, and numerous times. If exposed only to these three stories as Flanner O’Conner’s canon, or the larger scheme of Southern literature, a reader may ascertain the only color of Dixie is the color yellow. Yellow shirts of “A Man is Hard to Find,” yellow dresses of Negro women in “The Artificial Nigger,” the yellow socks of the bible salesman and the yellow sweatshirt of the daughter in “Good Country People,” are the fair indications of yellow throughout the south.
The connections in each story hold true to the voice of the writer, the dialog written in vernacular and traits of characters. Case studies of southern archetypes are clear, the domineering older generation, the changing world of the impetuous youth set down alive in the yellowing dialog of each.


O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. New York: Harvest Books, 1981.

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