The Vampiric Motives in O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Authors have various strategies of conveying their ideas to their audience Numerous rhetorical devises such as motifs can portray how an author feels about an aspect of society or a particular topic Oates and O’Connor’s use of Othering to heighten tension in the stories and through their deployment of vampirism bring our characters to the realization of their roles as individuals The Other is “a group, an individual, or an object establishing one’s own identity through opposition to and vilification of this [o]ther” (Gabriel).

One who seems to be set aside or set differently by individuals or by identity is considered to be this infamous other. The Other can be influential and beneficial to the characters or the complete opposite. Being Othered can have a variety of meaning because the author uses Othering in their own unique way to help convey a message or theme that is relevant in the world today. In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, Joyce Carol Oates’s Other is a character known as Arnold.

Arnold is a radical antagonist that plays the role of the Other in the text He heightens the tension in the text with his random appearance at Connie‘s (the protagonist’s) house. Arnold is Othered through mainly his description. The author explains that, “[h]e had shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig and he was grinning at her”. These features portray an odd character to make the person stand out; to other them in some way.

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In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O‘Connor’s other is a misfit that has escaped from prison and is on the loose around the Georgia area. He heightens the tension by basically kidnapping the individuals and killing them.

The most relevant motif in the text in my opinion is vampirism. Vampirism is the act of leaching off another’s pain or misfortune to satisfy one’s lust. One can easily identify vampirism in both texts with the Misfit feeding off of the grandmother and the Arnold feeding off of Connie. A prime example of Vampirism in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Arnold explains that “[i] promise it won’t last long and you’ll like me that way you get to like people you’re close to You will. It’s all over for you here, so come on out, You don‘t want your people in any trouble, do you?” At this point tension is almost at its peak Connie is experiencing a baptism of sweat and Arnold will not enter the house (classic vampirism), Vampirism is predominantly in the majority of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?_with Arnold Friend metaphorically feeding off of Connie’s fear. The misfit in A Good Man is Hard to Find also represents vampirism as well as he “would hate to have to” shoot a woman.

The Misfit means that if provoked, he would not hesitate to take the life of an inferior being In this case the vampirism is bringing the tension in the text to a boiling point which later leads to the grandmother’s realization as well as The Misfit’s realizations The physical features of Arnold can contribute to the author’s motif of vampirism. For instance Arnold’s collar is popped up which could possibly symbolize fangs. Another example is Arnold’s last name. It seems ironic that someone with the last name of Friend would be the antagonist. Also, if the R would to be taken out of his last name then the remaining letters would spell FlEND. A fiend and a demon are essentially the same thing; both of which feed off of others to derive their power or satisfaction like a vampire Arnold brings Connie to her realization once she is forced to leave with him.

She finds that the most important thing her life is her family. She concludes that she would rather die than leave her family to harm which conflicts with her previous idea that her family is the least important thing to her. She actually wished her family were dead before her new epiphany. The same aspects can be observed in Oates story A Good Man is Hard to Find. The Misfit and his crew are wearing clothes taken from previous victims that were unfortunate enough to cross paths. The car passes a grave site which symbolizes death. Another symbol is the grandmother herself. She wears a gown because she wants people to know if “anyone saw her dead on the highway [they] would know at once that she was a lady”. This shows us irony because the story actually ends with the grandmother being shot and killed. The author’s irony is used alongside the motif of vampirism to heighten tension in the text for the characters The grandmother and the Misfit both undergo a realization.

The Misfit finds his place in society, Though he defines himself as a person meant to hurt people he seems to be perfectly content with his place. The grandmother says that “[y]ou‘re one of my own children!” This shows us that the grandmother also has undertaken a realization, The author utilized vampirism in the Misfit for her to reach this realization, but how did this tool even work? When one is conflicted with a mixture if thoughts and emotion an internal battle arises between what one knows and what one wants to know. Eventually one has a tendency to question what their beliefs are and they form a new consensus of the subject matter. The realization in a character is produced by the Othering being imminent in a text for the author to utilize, In these particular stories realization is reached through a series of events that involve an antagonist feeding off of the protagonist in some way. The over arching idea that vampirism brings characters to realization in literature should provide an understanding of society and possibly the ways in which we can change what is wrong with it.

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The Vampiric Motives in O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find. (2023, Apr 08). Retrieved from

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