“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). In Christianity, people believe that the God is always watching over them from a distance. They fear when they commit sin, and try to prove their strong faith in their own way. However, some impious believers do not believe in God’s surveillance and often doubt His presence. As a Catholic, Flannery O’Connor reflected these characteristics in her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Brilliantly, she sets up the protagonist as a selfish grandmother and illustrates her family’s road trip which ends with The Misfit, an escaped prisoner killing her family member one by one, and the grandmother in the end. In the story, O’Connor uses the symbolism of the sky and show how two characters’ reactions toward the sky changes as their faith changes. Through this, O’Connor provides readers a chance to introspect themselves and be aware of God who is judging their faith.
In the story, the sky is used to symbolize God. Considering that O’Connor was a strong believer in a Catholic, a bit of religious knowledge is required to understand this. Sky commonly represents God in Christianity as Christians believe that he dwells in the heaven, which is placed up in the sky. However, the sky in this story is described “—Don’t see no sun but don’t see no cloud neither” (39). Usually, there are clouds or stars or the sun in the sky; so a sky with no sun and no cloud seems to be quite strange. This empty, vague sky means God in characters’ minds doesn’t exist distinctively. Thus readers can predict that the characters’ faiths must be weak. For real, two main characters, the grandmother and The Misfit is depicted to have an unfaithful attitude toward God. Moreover, the place where they meet The Misfit is empty but creepy place surrounded by the woods. “—woods, tall and dark and deep.” (37). This builds the atmosphere that God is watching over them, judging their faith. Therefore the sky is used to emphasize the author’s message and theme of this story.
For the grandmother, the sky, or God is a mechanism to reflect herself. From the beginning of the story, she is described as a hypocritical woman. As the story proceeds, readers can find that the grandmother shows her hypocritical attitude toward her faith. Readers would never think of the grandmother as a Christian until she meets The Misfit; she never prays for herself or her family from the beginning, but she persuades The Misfit to pray. It was no more than a stratagem to get out of the crisis. From her characteristics, readers can find that the most important thing for her is introspection, though she never did it. This is symbolized by the relationship with the sky. In the story, she never looks up the sky or even response to The Misfit’s reference to the sky while the text constantly emphasizes the cloudless sky. This can be interpreted that she was never aware of God’s eyes who’s judging up in the sky. Therefore, this shows that she has never introspected herself and her faith. However, at the end, she finally recognizes her lack of faith as she says “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead.” (43). Though she consistently induced The Misfit to believe in God, at last, she gets confused and reflects her weak faith for the first time. Then she gets through the epiphany and proves her faith by showing misfit, God’s Grace. Then she is killed by The Misfit. Yet, her head is finally looking up the sky for the first time. “—and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.” (43). This describes the moment she first introspects on her faith and behaviors, confronting the God.
In the story, The Misfit’s doubt is represented by his reference to the sky. He is the only character that has mentioned about the cloudless sky and looked up the sky. This can be interpreted that he is aware of God unconsciously, though he does not believe his existence anymore. Confronting the family, he made a reference to the sky for the first time. Again, when he recalled past days in the penitentiary, he looked up at the “cloudless sky” (41). Next time the sky is mentioned is when the entire family is killed except for the grandmother. Then he explains why he kills people. He was convicted of a guilt that he killed his father, which he doesn’t remember. “No pleasure but meanness,” he said as he told the grandmother that he chose not to believe Jesus, thus he would rather live devilishly (43). At the end of the story, watching God’s grace through the Grandmother, he finally confirms God exists. Hence, the sky is not mentioned anymore and he does not look up the sky either. It’s because he doesn’t distrust God anymore. He says, “It’s [meanness] no real pleasure in life,” which is contrary to his words earlier when he said, “No pleasure but meanness,” (43). From this, readers can assume that he will not be committing any “meanness” anymore; he’s changed.
Through the symbolism of the sky, O’Connor showed how the two main characters’ faith transforms. And she succeeded in delivering her message that every soul is salvable if the faith genuine. She provides a chance to the America’s southern society to introspect themselves and their faith. She alerts readers that God’s eyes are always “watching evil and the good”, thus judging them. Hence, O’Connor encourages readers to build sincere faith in God.