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Comparison of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Horse Dealer's Daughter"

A Literary Comparison of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Horse Dealer's Daughter"

Sep 4, 2020 at Literature Essays

 “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by O’Connor and “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” by Lawrence

It is difficult to find two stories more different, yet more alike than “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by O’Connor and “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” by Lawrence. Both speak about submission, personal flaws, and catastrophic consequences of the latter. The stories discover the inner parts of human nature, using very different storylines, styles, and characters. Although both stories deal with submission and people’s will, they analyze those features differently because “A Good Man is Hard to Find” discusses goodness in men, while “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” analyzes the distinction between the right and the wrong.

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“A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the story about forgiveness and salvation as well as deceit and rotten nature of a person. In the story, a family travels and listens to many lies of the grandmother, who wants to cover deception and never reveal the truth to her relatives. Because of grandmother’s mistake, the family ends up in a land, where a runaway convict with two of his partners shoots everybody. He kills the grandmother the last, and she slowly begins to realize what has been happening. She understands that her son, her daughter-in-law, and her children have been killed, and she will die next. The woman begs the convict to spare her and talks about mercy and Jesus, addressing the man as her son. However, such appeal does not save the woman, and she is killed in the end.

The work is tragic, yet powerful because it dwells on people’s emotions and fears. Although the convict is the real criminal in action, the readers dislike the grandmother very much because it is her behavior that puts the family into the catastrophic position. The woman does not want to admit her flaws and understands them only moments before her death. Although she begs for forgiveness and mercy, she is not granted salvation. In fact, the story is about people resisting external powers and fighting even though the battle may be unjust sometimes. For example, although grandmother speaks about horrors in the world and bad people, she is herself a representation of a deceitful person, and her fight is also a fight against good because she is a hypocrite. The story is also about submission because grandmother makes her family submit to her wishes. She encourages visiting an old house by lying to the children, and she spreads her influence, using her words and her position as the oldest person in the family. The convict also makes the entire family submit to his wishes; he wants to be free and unnoticed by anybody, so he decides to kill the entire family. Although the grandmother begs him not to do it, he still executes his own will, making everyone succumb to his decision.

The main idea of the work is defining what a good man is and what goodness means in general. During the family journey, the grandmother gets to talk about a good man and the difficulty of finding him. According to the grandmother, people generally act in a bad way and tend to be deceitful (ironically, this is the description of the grandmother). At the end of the work, the grandmother speaks to the convict, saying he is a good man who should spare her. In this part, the readers understand that the idea of a good man is non-existent because this term can be applied to anybody depending on the situation and the speaker’s needs. Therefore, it does not reflect real goodness, which is subjective and highly practical. Besides, goodness can be perceived differently by different people, as it can be seen through the image of the convict and his ideas of himself. To convict, he is also a good man who happened to become a murderer because of social mistakes. He does not consider himself responsible for his crimes thus believing himself good. The novel shows that a good man is, in fact, hard to find because everything depends on the definition of goodness and the way it is applied to people.

“The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” tells a story of Mabel, a daughter, whose father (the horse dealer) has recently died and left the family in debts. Her brothers dislike and mock the sister, and her mother died earlier. The girl is alone in the world, not to mention her brothers, who are not very kind toward her. A young doctor, Fergusson, watches the girl leave her house, clean her mother’s grave, and go to the lake apparently to drown herself. The doctor rescues the girl, and when she comes to senses, she thinks he has saved her because he loves her. Although the doctor does not have any feelings for her, he submits to Mabel’s desire to be loved.

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Similarly to the previous novel, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” talks about submission. It is a tale of one personality submitting to another, and it evaluates the will of individuals. Basically, the story moral is that the person with the strongest will will be able to influence others the way he or she wants. Although the doctor does not want Mabel and feels he has no romantic feelings for her, there is some love in him. He loves that she wants him so much, so he submits to her passion. Mabel plays a similar role compared to the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Both women push the stories forward, and it is their personal issues and will that lead to the main events. It is also their desires that influence people around them.

However, unlike the other story, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” does not speak about the definition of goodness. Nevertheless, the story still dwells on the topics of the right and the wrong, morality, principle, and duty. These ideas are apparent when the doctor rescues a girl. For Mabel, this is a symbol of love because only a man in love would risk his life to save another person. For doctor, it is a mere duty; he did not think twice before saving a girl. He did it because he is a doctor and a moral human being, who could not let another person die. Similarly, he lies to Mabel that he loves her because he thinks it is the right thing to do, and he agrees to marry her despite the fact that he is not romantically involved with her. Thus, the story provides readers with interesting insights into human nature and contemplates about what makes an action right, and what makes it wrong. This is the similarity with Flannery O’Connor’s story, which is about distinguishing a good man from a bad man. “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” is not solely about the person, but about his or her actions and reasons to act in a specific way. Both stories are similar because they leave the questions unanswered and show the readers that there is no such thing as a “good man,” and there is no clear understanding of what is right and wrong because everything depends on people’s perceptions, attitudes, and specific situation.

“The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” are great examples of stories which discover people’s inner struggles and convey powerful messages. The works are similar because they talk about will and submission of one individual to another. They differ in terms of the analysis of different aspects of human nature: “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” talks about the right and the wrong, while “A Good Man is Hard to Find” discusses general goodness of men. Both stories do not give clear answers to the raised questions, letting the readers decide for themselves.

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