Societal Norm In A Good Man Is Hard To Find By Flannery O’Connor, A Rose For Emily By William Faulkner And My Last Duchess By Robert Browning

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The societal norm of one passing is usually followed by grief and sadness, especially one that you have once loved. In “ A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “My last Duchess” by Robert Browning this case is rather more the complete opposite. When the main characters in these stories are exposed to a tragic death of their loved ones they are more relieved than they are sad, mainly for the reason being that they committed this crime. When it comes to the aspect of love, it is presented in many different forms in each story, but the characters do share the similarity of killing with no sense of regret and is for the most part because of the way they are viewed in society.

“My Last Duchess” is a magnificent poem that, although short, tells a dramatic story of a duke that has killed his wife. In this poem, Robert Browning begins by talking about a beautiful painting the Duke has hidden behind curtains. This is a painting of the dukes last duchess in which he admires greatly and even says that when looking at it, it feels like she is there. The Duke tells us a lot about the type of girl she was and liked to consider her as very flirty. Robert Brownings states “She had a heart- how shall I say? – too soon made glad, Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (p.85). The Duke wanted her attention on him only and when he realized his wife was not fully giving him that, his solution was to kill her, in which, he did.

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In the opening of “A Rose for Emily”, we are first introduced to the concept of Miss Emily Grierson’s death and that the “Whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner 89). In this town, Miss Emily Grierson was a very well known women for many reasons. To begin with her father was a very wealthy man who helped out significantly within the town and had even loaned money to the mayor. Because of this significant role her father played in the society, they decided that Miss Emily will no longer have to pay taxes. After the death of her father, the family was no longer wealthy and she had an incredibly tough time accepting reality. The mayor had soon died and the new mayor expected Miss Emily to pay her taxes. When she was overdue, tax collectors had shown up to her house to notify her, in which she responded saying “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!… Show these gentlemen out.” (Faulkner 90). This, being similar to a previous time she kicked people out for complaining about an odd smell coming from her house after the passing of her father and of Homer Barron. After the death of Miss Emily’s father, she was out of the public eye for a good amount of time; until the town started seeing her hanging out with Homer Barron. After a while of being with Homer Barron and the town constantly talking about their relationship, Miss Emily had requested arsenic, without mentioning why she needed it. Although Miss Emily loved him and did many things to show it, Homer Barron was “not a marrying man” and there was no longer anything to do about it. When Emily passed and people were finally able to go inside her house, they saw Homer Barron’s body laying in her bed slowly rotting.

Emily is a great representation of the south and the mentality of the people there. Considering the fact that Miss Emily was wealthy, the town expected her to be with someone in the same financial situation, and because she wasn’t, Miss Emily was picked on. Although Miss Emily loved him greatly, he was not willing to settle down, and being an older women, Emily was looking to get married. After numerous tries to reform Baron, she had come to the conclusion that he is non-reformable. Homer Barron left her with no choice at the end because he himself admitted that he was not a marrying man so he was basically useless to her.

“My Last Duchess” and “A Rose for Emily” both share very similar concepts of love/death. Miss Emily did greatly love Homer Baron, as did the Duke to his last duchess. William Faulkner states, “ We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B on each piece. Two days later we learn that she had bought a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a night shirt” (Faulkner 94). This signifying that she was ready for marriage with him. The Duke’s feelings, on the other hand, can even be classified as obsessive because he wanted her all to himself. Both stories share the same idea of loving someone but having to kill them because they are incapable of change. Both the Duke and Miss Emily do not see wrong in what they do as well because of their place and power within society.

On the other hand, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor depicts a very different story but shares similar ideas. This story begins with grandma reading about a man that had recently escaped prison and goes by the name “The Misfit”. When it came to planning out a family trip, Grandma knew Florida was out of the picture because thats where The Misfit was headed towards. The family decided to go to Tennessee so they began to prepare for the long ride. On the way to Tennessee, the grandma shares many stories with the children and eventually remembers about an old plantation she had known about when she was a child that happened to nearby. Knowing the children wouldn’t be interested, grandma tells them that “there was a secrete panel in this house” and that “the family story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman cane through but it was never found…” (Faulkner 10). With the children eager to go, they begin heading to the plantation by taking a dirt road. On the way there they experience a bad accident where their car flips, but luckily none got severely injured. The only downside to this incident is that they are now in the middle of nowhere with no help. Out of nowhere appears a man offering to help. The grandma kindly accepts the help of this man but can not grasp her head around where she knows this man from. She realizes that he is The Misfit and confronts him. Out of fear and attempt to save her life, grandma tries to show the Misfit love, by complementing him and carrying deep conversations with him. Of course none of this worked for grandma because she ends up getting shot and dying.

Although love doesn’t play a big role in this story, there are times where it is present. For example, at the end of the story when the grandma is nearly facing death she turns to religion as a way to help her. Even when talking to The Misfit, she asks him if he has ever prayed and after answering no, mentions that if he would’ve maybe things would’ve ended up differently for him. Also, when nearly facing death grandma shows more love to her son Bailey as she constantly calls him for help and concern. The Misfit also shows love at a point in the story when talking about his parents. Faulkner states, “Finest people in the world. When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold, he said.”(19).

All three stories show the aspect of love and death in very different ways. As “My last Duchess” and “A Rose for Emily” carry out very similar ideas of killing their significant other due to the inability to change them, this can also be applied in “A Good Man Is hard to Find”. The Misfit had killed the grandma knowing she wasn’t a good person, despite her kindness in the moment. When killing her The Misfit states, “She would of been a good woman, The Misfit said “if there had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” (Faulkner 28).

All three stories portray the idea of death with no regret or grief afterwards. In “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning he had killed his former wife for being “too flirty’. After committing the crime, he had no regret because of his high power in society. The Duke has such a powerful role in society that he sets himself his own rules and has no boundaries, Browning states, “Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!”. This quote signifying that to him, nothing is rare so he can and will get what he wants. When the Duke does not get what he wants, he believed it to be more than okay to kill the duchess.

Miss Emily in “A Rose for Emily”, also plays a woman with power in the society in which she lives in. Of course nothing like the Dukes power, although Emily is very well known because of her fathers legacy in the town. Everything Miss Emily would do, she would have eyes watching her; so much that even when she was with someone people would judge her for being with him. Emily presents a women with high class in the south. When individuals would see her would a low class man they all gasped for words. Miss Emily believed she was worthy of more than what Barron was giving her, so she simply killed him and saw nothing wrong with it.

Lastly, the Misfit in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” also has a role in the society in which he lives in. The Misfit is known as a “bad guy” in this story. In the beginning we are introduced to him as the man who escaped prison and is on the lose. Because of his title in society, he saw no wrong in killing grandma.


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