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Contrast and Comparison: The Lesson and a Good Man Is Hard to Find

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At first glance, one would not think that there was any commonality between The Lesson, written by Toni Cade Bambara and A Good Man is Hard to Find, written by Flannery O'Connor. Although, it is helpful if one can remember that we are in the land of fiction writing and here the authors have the skills to alter boundaries and the talent to expand their limits.

After analyzing these two short stories, it has become evident that they have several parallelisms. An obvious similarity is the personalities of the two characters Sylvia and the Misfit. Another connection is the way the authors take us on a journey producing a theme of how one can be influenced by gaining knowledge from an elderly person. The final comparison ends with the way society impacts in a young adult's life and interferes with them prospering in a hostile setting.

After studying both of these stories, it has become apparent that the characters of Sylvia and the Misfit have some striking resemblances. The first parallelism is that Sylvia's personality is very judgmental and tough, and she reveals a hostile exterior. Sylvia is not very happy about having to be taught anything by Miss Moore. For instance, she states "we kinda hated her too, hated the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our hand ball walls" (Bambara 121). The Misfit's personality and unhappiness for authority is clearly stated as he is speaking to the grandmother in the following manner, "Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known "but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me" (O'Connor 462). Both the Misfit and Sylvia are going through a period of time in their lives where they are experiencing questions of identity or personal definition. Sylvia clearly displays this action when she becomes very angry over the outrageous prices of the toys at F.A.O. Schwartz and dwells on one of Miss Moore's favorite sayings, "Where we are is who we are, but it don't necessarily have to be that way" (Bambara 200-201). Everything about the day instills anger in Sylvia and instead of blowing the money she had left over from the cab ride she tells her friend Sugar, "I'm going to the West End and then over to the Drive to think this day through" (Bambara 202). The Misfit's motif displays the same idea when he has a moment of clarity while engaging in a serial murder. As the grandmother is desperately trying to save her own life and rein peace and grace over the Misfit, he displays anger by answering the grandmother's question referring to Jesus, "Maybe he didn't raise the dead," (O'Connor 466) by saying, "I wisht I had of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist. Continuing on with his reaction he states, "if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now." His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies." Shortly thereafter, he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them (O'Connor 467). Consequently, Sylvia and the Misfit reach a point of frustration about their circumstances. In this theme both characters have the opportunity to take a few minutes and reflect on the day and whether or not they want to change their future. As a result, Sylvia learns from her lesson and the Misfit disregards his and goes on status quo.

Miss Moore and the grandmother both play important parts in these stories. The common feature is that these ladies both have the ability to teach a lesson. Miss Moore enters into The Lesson as college educated, English speaking women who feels it is her obligation and responsibility to educate the young ones. She exposes them to the world outside of their neighborhood and the truths it holds. The lesson she wants to impart on this particular day is an economic injustice that exists in the United States. Miss Moore is very attentive and observes the children's reactions very closely, always looking for an opportunity for a lesson. This is described in the following passage when Sylvia is tired of listening to Miss Moore, "So right away I'm tired of this and say so. And would much rather snatch Sugar and go to the Sunset and terrorize the West Indian kids and take their hair ribbons and their money too. And Miss Moore files that remark away for next week's lesson on brotherhood, I can tell" (Bambara 196). Another example of her knack for teaching lessons is shown in her reply to Sylvia when she asks Miss Moore how much a real sailboat costs. Miss Moore's response was, "Why don't you check that out," she says, "and report back to the group" (Bambara 199)? The grandmother is just as witty and unpredictable to the Misfit as Miss Moore is in her teachings to the children. In the beginning of A Good Man is Hard to Find the grandmother tries to introduce lessons to the family by telling Bailey that, "The children have been to Florida before," the old lady said. "You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad" (O'Connor 454). As the family



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