Flannery O’Connor, a Southern Gothic writer from the mid 1900s, bravely explored the societal injustices women faced in her two short stories “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Revelation” at the expense of her immediate popularity. Though utilizing variant situations to illustrate her point, both share mutual gender issues portrayed by utilizing implications and the power of omission. Both devices are additionally appropriate due to the historical context; as the text mirrors, sexism was infrequently directly discussed.
In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, the mother figure remains nameless and does not assert control upon her children, for when they act rudely the narrator comments in a sarcastic tone, “The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear” (O’Connor 358), implying that the mother was conscious of her children’s actions but remained powerless to deter them. This instance is particularly appalling because it demonstrated the lengths to which sexism has rooted if mothers are being treated as the inferior sex by their own children. Likewise, the grandmother does not have a name, andmust beg her son to stop at a house in the process of reaching their vacation spot, fabricating an “educational” (O’Connor 362) aspect to the detour so that her desire may be honored. Here O’Connor displays sexism’s potential longevity; if never abolished, there is no reason to believe the mother’s children will not continue to disrespect their elders when they mature into adults. Furthermore, the comparison between the mother and grandmother shows that sexism is a learned trait adults must alter if they do not wish to perpetuate it’s effects.
Additionally, it is highly significant that both female characters were neglected to be given names, most notably because, and intensified due to the fact, the story is being conveyed in traditional prose. By doing this, O’Connor uses omission to more adequately articulate her point than if she explicitly commented upon the female’s submission roles. Just as importantly, O’Connor assigns the family’s father the name “Bailey” (O’Connor 358), thereby creating a source of contrast between the parallel roles of men and women and the level of respect each were assigned. When “A Good Man is Hard to Find” was published in 1955, the chilling subtly in which O’Connor comments upon gender classification daunted her audience but no doubt assisted in addressing sexism and the collective liberation of women in America.
The gender concern is also raised in “Revelation”, however instead of demonstrating the master-slave relationship of a typical family, O’Connor explores the roles of women in general society. Like the mother who in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” was criticized for wearing pants and a green kerchief to tame her hair, “Revelation” also addresses the pressure women experience to perpetually appear beautiful. Though in a doctor’s office, a setting in which people may be expected to dress unusually comfortably due to the nature of their visit, Mrs. Turpin judges all females by their shoes. For example, she reports that “the white-trashy mother (O’Connor 370)” was adorned in bedroom slippers and instantly dislikes her, while she refers to the lady in shoes matching her dress as “pleasant (O’Connor 371)”.
Just as found in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “Revelations” also manipulates omission in order to demonstrate a point. Though Mrs. Turpin judges her female peers’ worth by their outward appearances, there is no mention of her scrutiny of mens’ shoes. Thus, it may be concluded that Mrs. Turpin symbolizes the absurd expectations society upholds for females and the double standards it maintains for males. Moreover, because the narrator’s thoughts are private, O’Connor demonstrates how ingrained sexism has become in most American’s minds and therefore illuminates it’s power.
Though criticized as distressing by what O’Connor called “tired readers (O’Connor 399) or her superficial audience, her compulsion to articulate social commentary outweighed the typical lay person’s unwillingness to confront sexism. Consciously, O’Connor compromises what most audiences of her time wished from brief encounters with prose, namely an uplifted spirit at the expanse of provoking thought, in order to address climaxing societal and gender issues.