A Good Man is Hard to Find essay - Part 2
A Good Man is Hard to Find
There are many works of literature which have been adapted into film. While the movies do convey the same messages as the book or story in which it was based, it cannot be denied that there will always be a difference or differences which will emerge during the adaptation. The story may be the same, but the treatment or portrayal will be different in the screenplay. An appropriate example would be Flannery O’Connor’s short story entitled “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The original story and the screenplay version are very different; reading each one presents the same story in two different angles.
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The differences between the original story version and the screenplay version are defined by three elements: additional details, context and perspective.
Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” as a short story is simple and straightforward. The story tells of a family from Georgia, which was supposed to travel to Florida (O’Connor). Before the trip began, the family was already aware of a criminal on the loose simply called The Misfit. Despite the danger that the escaped prisoner presented, the family proceeded to their trip. They stopped by The Tower to get Red Sammy’s barbequed sandwiches for lunch. In the middle of the trip, the grandmother spoke of an old plantation she remembered from the past. On their way to the plantation, the cat the grandmother hid in the basket jumped at Bailey, who was driving. This caused him to lose control of the car, and they suffered a minor accident. At this point, the grandmother realized that the plantation she knew was in Tennessee, not in Georgia. The family saw another car approaching, and the grandmother recognizes The Misfit as one of the passengers. The Misfit ordered his two cohorts to kill the entire family, except for the grandmother. The Misfit killed the grandmother by himself (O’Connor).
The screenplay also features the same story; however, it contains details that are not found in the short story. For instance, the names of Bailey’s wife, the baby and Red Sammy’s wife were indicated in the screenplay while the names were absent in the story. In the story, the identification was merely “children’s mother, a young woman in slacks”; in the screenplay, it is stated that her name was Mary Beth (O’Connor). The unnamed baby in the story is identified as Barbara Jean in the screenplay. Also, the woman only described as “a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter than her skin” is identified as Daisy in the screenplay (O’Connor).
There are also some scenes or lines found in the screenplay but are absent in the original story. In the short story, nothing was said about an encounter between The Misfit and Red Sammy and Daisy. It was not stated that they were also victims of the criminal, just like the family. However, as the screenplay reveals, The Misfit and his companions had come to The Tower sometime after the family left and killed both of them. In addition, there was the story of the scorpion told by the grandmother that is not present in the original story but is included in the screenplay. In the screenplay, when she was persuading The Misfit not to kill her, the grandmother exclaimed, “I know you are not the scorpion, boy!” (28). Then, there was the incident where the grandmother recognized who The Misfit was. In the short story, it was written that Bailey “said something to his mother that shocked even the children” (O’Connor). What exactly was said was unknown. The screenplay provides the missing element, though; Bailey said: “You stupid bitch! You know what you’ve done?” (21).
The added details that are present in the screenplay are important because it allows the reader to have a better understanding of the story. While the short story is easily to read in its original form, the screenplay offers much more with the details it provides. It allows the reader to comprehend the story with much clarity. The second difference between the short story version and the screenplay version is also determined by the additional information present in the screenplay. What sets both versions apart is context.
As opposed to the short story, the screenplay provides the context from which events of the story are based. The context allows the readers to discover the reason behind the actions of a certain character. The context found in the screenplay is notably absent in the short story version, making the former easier to understand than the latter. In the short story version, the sequence of events is linear. In the screenplay, the sequence of events is disrupted. There are flash forward scenes and flashbacks. The context is mostly provided by the flashbacks in the screenplay.
The screenplay offers a glimpse behind those which influenced the actions of a character. One example would be The Misfit. In the short story version, The Misfit spoke of his father in vague, patronizing statements. He was incarcerated for killing his father, but he claims that his father died because of flu (O’Connor). The reader of the short story could have easily been convinced by this story, as it was the only one presented. The reader may believe that The Misfit was innocent, and that it was the injustice he suffered which caused him to be violent towards others. However, the screenplay shows the real story behind the story of The Misfit. In his youth, The Misfit was physically abused by his father with the consent of his mother. They believed that whipping was for his own good and that it will save him from “evil thoughts” (24). The harsh discipline had the opposite effect on The Misfit; instead of becoming good, it made him evil. The pain inflicted by his father caused so much hatred in The Misfit that it led him to commit murder. The screenplay provided the context in which the reader could properly understand where The Misfit was coming from, and why he was the way he was. This gave the reader a better understanding of The Misfit’s character.
Another character which was defined by the context given by the screenplay was the grandmother. In the screenplay, the grandmother dreamt that she was a child once again. In the short story, there was no dream that occurred. In that dream, she witnessed the violence of a group of white men against a black man; this black man was later hanged. Before he died, the black man said that those who persecuted him were good but they’ve been “blinded” (18). It was this dream that helped influence the grandmother’s reaction when she was about to get killed by The Misfit. In the face of death, the grandmother clung to her belief in the goodness of man and was convinced that The Misfit’s actions were merely a result of “blindness.” She tried to save her life by appealing to the “goodness” of The Misfit but to no avail.
The last difference between the short story version and the screenplay version is perspective. As a result of the additional details as well as the context provided, the screenplay version proved to have presented a wider perspective with regards to the characters and most especially, the story. For instance, the character of The Misfit is simply presented in the short story as a violent man with no compassion for others. However, in the screenplay version, The Misfit can be understood as a wounded human being rather than just a cold-hearted criminal. This perspective allows a more comprehensive look into the character, resulting in a more complex understanding of the story. This perspective is absent in the short story, allowing the reader to have only limited understanding.
In the case of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, there are significant differences between the short story itself and its screenplay version. Though the original short story version is distinct in itself, it is the added details in the screenplay which provide context and perspective to the story. As a result, the screenplay has more to offer to the readers.
O’ Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. University of Central California. 14 Sept. 2008 <http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/goodman.html>.