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A Good Man is Hard to Find and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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    Comparative Analysis of Two Short Stories, ` A good man is hard to find ` and  ‘A very old man with enormous wings’

    The short story ‘A good man is hard to find’ is written by an Irish Flannery O’Connor while the short story ‘A very old man with enormous wings’ is written by a Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    The story entitled “A good man is hard to find” is basically a story about a grandmother and her family who went for a visit  to Tennessee who along the way decided to make a detour to find a certain house but only to meet a car accident in the road. An escaped convict and his companions found them lying helplessly by the roadside and murdered all of them (O’Connor 2008). The story ‘A very old man with enormous wings’ , on the other hand, is about an old man with wings who was found lying in the mud in the courtyard of  a couple, Pelayo and Elisenda.  The couple placed the old man inside a chicken hoop, gain profit from a curios watching crowd and after a while when the old man lose popularity and the chicken hoop collapse , the old man flew away( Marquez 2004 ).

    The title of the first story may be taken from a statement by Red Sammy, the man who ran The Tower (the place where the family stops for a snack) which is both a filling station and a dance hall. Red Sammy was talking about how hard it was to find someone to trust anymore. The title however can be connected to what had happened to the traveling family who meet an accident. At first they were fortunate that someone passed along that remote area to help them but unfortunately, it was not a good man who found them but an escaped convict. Instead of being helped, they were murdered.

    If only good men abounds then perhaps, good people may have found them and helped them. The title can also allude to the life story of the Misfit who according to the story had attempted to be religious and good in the previous years of his life. Yet in spite of his attempts to be good, he turned out to be a bad man. His life conveys the message that it is not easy to be good hence, “a good man is hard to find”. In contrast, the second story on the other hand, its title has a clear explanation, which of course refers to the old man with enormous wings who was found in a couple’s courtyard.

    The first story was written by an omniscient narrator. Omniscience in the story however is limited in the sense that only the point of view of the grandmother was revealed while of those of other characters were disclosed. So it was impossible to know what really goes on in the minds of Bailey and his wife and accurately interpret their actions.

    The second story was also told by an omniscient author, and limited omniscience was employed, for the thoughts and intentions of the old man was not revealed. . The difference however with the first story is that  the second    story was not written in the point of view of the central character, the old man , but of the  rest of the characters of the story. That is why the real identity and origin of the old man remains a mystery. Nevertheless, both stories are written in genial tones, or with a sense of comedy. For example, it is hilarious that the grandmother should think that she had to dress herself well for “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady”( O’Connor 2008).

    There are many comic scenes also in the second story, an example of which about the people who ask for healing from the angel, two of whom are “a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers” and “a Portuguese man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed” (Marquez 2008). However, there is a difference in the types of narrative being told. The first one was realistic, meaning that events described in the story can happen or are possible in real life. The second one is magic realism, where reality is mixed with magic. What is magical in the second story is the old man with wings and the woman who was turn into a spider.

    The predominant element in the first story is its character, the old man with wings. Throughout the story, his real identity was a mystery. Because he had wings, the people in the story had assumed he was an angel. But there was doubt to that identification. Except for his wings, the old man did not manifest traits that are popularly associated with an angel. Instead of being powerful and mighty, the supposed angel was helpless. He does not show any power except in his feeble ability to fly.  Added to that he was old, not young and handsome as angels are commonly pictured. His eyes were blurred so that he kept on bumping into posts. It   would have been more accurate to say that the old man was a human being who had wings.

    It was also a mystery why the old man got into the couple’s courtyard in the first place. It was assumed that he was supposed to take the couple’s child away when she dies for she was suffering from fever. However, both of this assumption was never confirmed. On the other hand, the predominant element in the second story was on its theme, of the difficulty of being good and how easier it is to be bad. The woman must have been religious for she talks about Jesus and praying to the Misfit. Yet she had a manipulative character and do not hesitate to lie just so she can get what she wants.

    Moreover, she does not admit her fault for fear of being reprimanded just as in the case that when they were on their way to the house that her family was taking a detour for, she realizes that she was wrong in thinking that the house is in Georgia. She could have told her son about it and therefore     avert their tragedy. The Misfit on the other hand, was a man who attempted to be good yet in the end still turn out bad.

    The central character of the first story is the grandmother. The inner conflict of the story centers on the grandmother’s manipulative nature.  She accomplished her manipulations through her convincing talks. She wanted to   visit some of her contacts in Tennessee so she was trying to change his son’s mind to go to Florida and go to Tennessee instead by pointing out to him that the escaped convict called the Misfit was going towards Florida. Furthermore, she wanted to see one of the houses that she visited when she was young so she made up untrue stories to her grandchildren so that they will demand their father to take a detour to visit the house. Her manipulations however were the source of the family’s misfortune for on the road to the house, they met an accident.

    The Misfits and his companions found them and murdered all of them. To escape certain death, the grandmother used religion to manipulate the Misfit’s action toward her and her family but unlike her son, the Misfits has answers to her arguments so that eventually her   talkativeness had sealed her tragic fate. The central character of the second story is still another old person, this time in the person of an old man with enormous wings who apparently met a certain misfortune and end up lying in the mud in the courtyard. He eventually found himself in a chicken hoop under the scrutiny of curious and oftentimes cruel people. Unlike the central character of the first story who seems to be in complete control of the situation, the old was a victim of his situation. However, in the end, their fate were reversed for in the ending of the story the grandmother became a victim of murder while the old man was able to get out of his pitiful situation and flew away.

     There is difference in where the action took place in both stories. The first story was a traveling narrative, that is the action took place in different places, from the grandmother’s son’s house, to The Tower and finally in the side of a remote Georgian road. In the second story, the action took place in one place, in the seaside residence of Pelayo and Elisenda. For the first story, the action took place in only two days, while in the second story it was much longer, some months or a year.  Both stories use symbolism. The symbolism of the first story foreshadows death. For example, the grandmother was afraid that if she left the cat a home, it might die; the grandmother dressed well in case she met an accident on the road; and while they travel the family noticed five or six graves in a field. In the second story, the wings carry symbolic meaning.  The wings symbolize the supernatural.

      The ending of the stories   differ, too. The first story has a tragic ending while the second one had a happy conclusion. However, in both stories, there are also hints of the good and the bad , respectively. For example, in the first story , although all the family died there is a hint  of repentance in the heart of  the Misfit who at first enjoyed killing other people yet after conversing with the grandmother, he told his companion that killing other people is not “ a pleasure” anymore. In the second story, although the old man was able to fly away, the reader never gets to know who he really was and what had really happened to him that he end up lying in the couple’s courtyard. In short, the second story left unanswered questions.

    Finally, it was easy to see the moral of the first story. To be good is sometimes not easy. One experiences desires, obstacles and circumstances that would drive him to be bad. In addition, the story suggests that it is hard to get away from one’s fate. The family was trying to avoid the Misfit, yet through the grandmother’s manipulation, they met the Misfit and died in his hands. On the other hand, it is much complicated to find the moral of the second story.

    It is because its theme is not even clear; the story really focuses on the mysterious old man with wings who met various receptions from the townspeople. Some were curious about him, others were unkind and cruel. Then the people’s attention was turn to another attraction, the woman spider. The moral then could be that human attention can easily shift to other new sensational things. Or, the virtue of patience can help a lot in overcoming circumstances. This is the case of the old man who endured hardship until he was able to regain his strength and flew away to freedom.

    Works Cited

    Marquez, Gabriel. A Very Old Man with Enormous wings (translated by Gregory Rabasa). 2004. Accessed April 6, 2008 <>
    O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. 2008. Accessed April 6, 2008 <>

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