Old vs New South In Flannery O’Connor’s stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People,” a change from the old south to the new south is quite evident. O’Connor uses these stories to show the differences between the old and new south and to voice her disapproval as to what the south was becoming. What upset O’Connor about the new south can be shown by carefully examining and interpreting these stories. In the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, O’Connor uses many different characters as representatives of different generations in the same family and uses these generations as examples of the change from the old to the new south. O’Connor uses the main character of the grandmother to represent what the south once was. One of the characteristics of the old south that the grandmother displays, is the need to keep herself looking like a lady. For instance, O’Connor writes:Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (O’Connor 11)By giving the grandmother the great need to be dressed like a lady, O’Connor makes this character a throwback to a time of white gloves, flowered hats, and women always wearing dresses. Situations like this firmly place the grandmother in a very old south role. Contrary to the role of the grandmother, O’Connor uses the person she recognizes as the children’s mother to show what the south was becoming:Bailey didn’t look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children’s mother, a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit’s ears. (O’Connor 9)The main characteristics of the new south are shown in the dress of the children’s mother. A lady of the old south would never wear slacks and tie her hair up in a head-kerchief and go out in public. Under an old south mentality these actions would be considered very unlady like. O’Connor reveals her own dissatisfaction for this new south character in the way that she describes the children’s mother. First, O’Connor only refers to her as the children’s mother, by not giving this character a name O’Connor shows some amount of contempt for her. Second, O’Connor uses the description of a cabbage and a rabbit when describing the children’s mother. The use of such unflattering terms is another way that O’Connor shows contempt for the new south. Finally, the tone of the language that O’Connor uses when talking about the children’s mother must be examined. For example, the grandmother “wheeled” around to face the children’s mother. The use of the verb “wheeled” connotates a negative meaning in the way that the grandmother looked at the children’s mother. O’Connor makes it sound as if the grandmother could have killed the children’s mother just by turning to face her. The third generation in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is represented by the two children John Wesley and June Star. O’Connor basically characterizes these two children as nothing more than selfish brats. For example, O’Connor writes:When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, a automobile, and June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother. (O’Connor 13)
O’Connor’s characterization of the children as brats further reinforces her disapproval of the new south. O’Connor makes these characters so self destructive that it seems impossible for them to survive. This characterization also shows the lack of hope that O’Connor felt for the south. O’Connor gives the children no hope for the future, thus no future. In the story “Good Country People” O’Connor uses the roles of a mother and her daughter to represent the differences in the old and new south. The representative of the old south in this story is the mother Mrs. Hopewell. In order to portray the old south in Mrs. Hopewell, O’Connor writes:”Mrs. Hopewell could not understand deliberate rudeness, although she lived with it, and she felt she had always to overflow with hospitality to make up for Joy’s lack of courtesy” (O’Connor 180). Mrs. Hopewell’s intense display of politeness is another way that O’Connor instills her character with a very old south mentality. A much different role is played by the daughter Hulga [Joy]. Several traits of Hulga’s show how O’Connor instills her with ideas of the new south. “When Hulga stumped into the kitchen in the morning (she could walk without making the awful noise but she made it – Mrs. Hopewell was certain because it was ugly sounding), she glanced at them and did not speak” (O’Connor 174). A lady with any regard for old south manners would never “stump around” when walking and even if she had to “stump around” she would at least apologize for her actions. Another trait that separates Hulga from the old south is the fact that she has a college degree. In the time the story was set not many women had college degrees. “Mrs. Hopewell thought it was nice for girls to go to school to have a good time but Joy [Hulga] had ‘gone through’” (O’Connor 175). For Hulga to actually get a college degree just reinforces her place in the new south. Another way that O’Connor shows her disapproval for the new south is when Hulga changes her name from Joy to Hulga. The beautiful sounding name Joy represents the old south and the name change symbolizes a change from the old to the new south. Miss O’Connor gives her the very ugly sounding name Hulga to represent a new south that she really does not care for. O’Connor expands on her dissatisfaction for this character through the word usage she uses when describing Hulga. It was said that Hulga “stumped” around the house even though she really didn’t need to. The verb “stumped” once again draws up a negative meaning. Since Hulga is the character that represents the old south in the story and since O’Connor has portrayed her in a very dark manner, it can be assumed that O’Connor does harbor a good deal of ill feelings towards the new south. Flannery O’Connor uses many different ideas to show change between the two souths. In both stories she uses completely different characters to show the same theories. By interpreting the descriptions of O’Connor’s characters and by analyzing the tone that she takes when dealing with the characters a strong sense of disapproval for the new south can be seen. What is very ironic is the fact that even though Miss O’Connor would be considered a member of the new south, mainly because she had a college degree, she still expressed a strong amount of ill feelings for the new south in her writing.