The readings “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” could be easily said not to share any similarities. Both stories take place in different times, different society backgrounds and beliefs. Even though such is true, after reading these short stories a couple of times, I noticed that there are in facts some similarities between the themes of both stories. As we read through the climax of both, we can instantly notice the frequent use of religion by the characters of both stories. The factors that lead to the use of religion differ from one story to the other, yet in both cases religion tries to explain an unusual situation. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” we can see how the grandmother becomes extremely religious when her life is at stake. From “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” we can see that Pelayo and Elisenda as well as everyone in town all try to find an explanation through religion. I will be showing in this paper how these two readings both portray man’s behavior when faced with the unexpected. A similar situation can be seen in the story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, when the family is thrown into
desperation right after the car crash in page, 147.
The story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a story taking place sometime in the 18th or 19th century. This statement could be checked at the bottom of page 338, “they had to call in troops with fixed bayonets.” It is well known that during those times religion was a big part of society. The church ruled the state not the government, and because upcoming discoveries in science defiled religious doctrines. Any scientic discovery or explanation was not widely accepted and sometimes even punishable by the law. The common man in this era therefore explained supernatural event through religion. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a fictional piece of writing that uses an extremely unreal setting to portray an unexpected event. Because of the statements above I concluded that the writer must have been trying to portray man’s reaction to the unexpected, man’s reaction to that which has not been previously defined.
The story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” takes place during the 20th century, it can be noticed from the text that cars are already a major way of transportation and racial segregation was still at its peak. As we read this story we can arrive to the conclusion that religion was only used as a means to survive and as emotional shelter. Starting from page 192 we can see how the grandmother turns into her religious beliefs to persuade the Misfit not to kill her. As stated by the Misfit on page 195, “she would have been a good woman… if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” This statement clearly shows the grandmother’s “extremely good” nature when faced with death. It can be clearly seen that the grandmother only appeals to religion to try to control and predict this unexpected situation. In the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” we can see a pattern of behavior developing, when Father Gonzaga tries to calm the masses by preaches just in the same way the Grandmother tries to calm the Misfit, when faced in a dire situation.
In both stories, the main characters use religion for their own personal advantage. In the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, the grandmother tries to convince the Misfit that he is a good man, from a family with good blood, to pray with her to Jesus in order to receive forgiveness for the bad things done in the past hoping that he would hear her and let her go alive even though he had already killed all her family. I don’t really think the grandmother would care that much about religion if it weren’t because her life was at stake and it was the only chance to save herself from a sure death. The grandmother was trying to reach deep into the Misfit’s religious side, somehow she was optimistic in the belief that we all have a religious side and we are all fearful of God in one way or another.
In the story “An Old Man with Enormous Wings” something similar can be perceived. Before the old man arrived in the house, the family lived in a precarious situation. The house was in ruins, full of crabs and very stinky. They were also completely out of money and just living on a day to day basis. When the old man arrives, and they are told that he was an angel, they threw him in the chicken coop to live in an even worse situation than they were living in and the only thing they cared about was the money they could make out of him. As this shows, neither story demonstrates a great appreciation towards religion; they bend religion to achieve or accomplish materialistic goals instead of practicing and adoring the greater gifts provided for them.
As we can see from the supporting statements above, it seems that religion is man’s weapon against the unknown. If there were something in common between these two stories it would definitely be the image of society they seek to portray. The two stories are taking place at two different times in history, yet we can clearly see the fact that people in both stories use religion as a tool for achieving selfish goals. They only seek religion when they need it, when things go bad and nothing or anyone
else is there to answer their needs. Both stories somehow try to answer the question of, “is man’s true nature good or evil?” In our last group discussion many of my classmates seemed to believe the grandmother was evil, but if we think about this statement carefully, saying she’s evil implies that we’re all evil. Unlike “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” portrays man’s behavior to the unexpected by narrating a story that could happen to any of us. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” portrays the same point but with a more fictional atmosphere. At first, the meanings and themes of the stories may seem confusing to the reader, but after a second read it becomes clear that the point is to portray a fact about all of us, a fact of life. I concluded that both short stories reveal man’s true nature when facing the unexpected.