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Gothic Elements in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “The Lottery

Horrific, extraordinary, macabre, or supernatural events and “an atmosphere of mystery and suspense” are the essentials of the American Gothic genre of literature (Phillips). The Southern Gothic sub-genre sets the events in the American South, makes substantial use of irony, and contains eccentric, deeply flawed characters but who possess sufficient optimistic qualities that the reader finds herself empathizing regardless of herself. As opposed to its parent genre, Southern Gothic is not concerned merely with suspense for its own sake “but to explore social concerns and reveal the cultural character of the South” (“Southern Gothic”). The tragic short story “A Great Man Is Tough to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, is typifies the Southern Gothic genre. On the other hand, Shirley Jackson’s allegorical tale “The Lottery” incorporates most of these exact same elements, but the events do not transpire in the South, negating its classification as Southern Gothic. Furthermore, the most frequent elements of American Gothic fiction: “ghostly legend[s] … omens, foreshadowing, and dreams … hugely charged emotional states … damsels in distress … [and] romantic themes” (Phillips) are largely absent in “The Lottery,” major one particular to wonder if the American Gothic genre is its correct taxonomy. This discrepancy may lead one to query the worth of fitting stories into established genres: one particular may possibly assume that every single work in a genre will be alike and disregard or fail to perceive aspects that do not match the mold. Nonetheless, by carefully avoiding overgeneralization and setting aside preconceptions in order to examine elements widespread to the genre, as effectively as these that do not conform, such classification can give supplemental insight into the text and usually reveal deeper meaning.

“The Lottery” describes events that are effectively outside our daily knowledge but appear ordinary adequate at initial. The action requires place on a pleasant June day in the town square of a small village. The townspeople collect for a lottery that has been an annual tradition for so lengthy they have forgotten numerous elements of the ceremony. The reader discovers at the conclusion of the account that the “prize” for this lottery is death by stoning, as the other villagers mercilessly stone the unfortunate winner, Tessie Hutchinson. Although these events are doubtless horrific, extraordinary, and macabre, the setting does little to create suspense or mystery, even though we are briefly in suspense when Mrs. Hutchinson protests the results—clearly anything is not standard about this lottery. Right after the true nature of the lottery is revealed, it can be observed that there is some foreshadowing in the fearful behavior of the townspeople whose “jokes were quiet and … smiled rather than laughed” and who “kept their distance” from the black box (Jackson 573). Prior to the ending, we are unable to deduce the significance of this, and alternatively interpret these behaviors as nervous excitement. This façade keeps the reader ignorant of the genuine goal of the ritual, and serves to much better illustrate the senselessness of tradition blindly followed. Jackson says about the setting: “I hoped by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village [North Bennington, VT], to shock the story’s readers” (qtd. in “Historical,” par. 1). The sense of normalcy drives home the suggestion to the reader that this could be taking place in any town, correct now, and their town could be next.

In contrast, “A Excellent Man Is Hard to Find” is a classic Southern Gothic story. Certainly, one critic portrays O’Connor’s writing as, “biting and grotesquely comic satire of human arrogance and self-certainty” (“O’Connor’s A Excellent Man,” par. 14). The story tells the heartrending tale of a loved ones vacation to Florida that ends in disaster. The grandmother manipulates the loved ones into taking a side trip to see an old plantation, and they wreck the auto on the way, leaving them stranded on a desolate dirt road. Just before lengthy, an escaped convict, The Misfit, comes along and massacres the complete loved ones. The events the story describes are exceptionally horrific, extraordinary, and macabre, and consistent with the genre, the author uses foreshadowing to heighten suspense, and as we are not deliberately lulled into feeling all is regular (as in “The Lottery”), it is easier to recognize. The graveyard, with “five or six graves” (there have been six household members), the town of “Toombsboro,” and the way the woods “gaped like a dark open mouth,” are a handful of examples of how O’Connor lets us know anything dreadful is about to occur (O’Connor 203 205 208).

The characters in “A Great Man Is Difficult to Find” also typify Southern Gothic style, in that they are both eccentric and deeply flawed. We 1st meet a character recognized only as “the grandmother,” and we instantly see her as a fussy, self-righteous, and quarrelsome shrew. Despite her apparent higher opinion of herself, she has no difficulty telling a lie when it suits her, “‘There was a secret panel in this house,’ she stated craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were” (O’Connor 205). The grandmother also has a tendency to disparage her family rather than show really like, and appears to covet wealth as effectively, telling June Star, “she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden,” given that he had become wealthy from Coca-Cola stock (O’Connor 204). One more character that displays eccentricity is Red Sammy, proprietor of The Tower, who keeps a “gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a tiny chinaberry tree” as a pet (O’Connor 204). His chauvinistic tendencies are apparent when he orders his wife about like a slave, and like the grandmother, he only sees the flaws of others, “‘A great man is difficult to locate,’ Red Sammy stated. ‘Everything is acquiring terrible’” (O’Connor 205). The most peculiar character is The Misfit even his nickname demonstrates how poorly he fits into society, and he is an exceptional example of a grotesque character—certainly “cringe-inducing,” but at the very same time, we see how he struggles inside himself. When the grandmother pleads with him to pray, we observe his rather bizarre view of religion, “‘Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead.’ The Misfit continued, ‘and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown [sic] almost everything off balance’” (O’Connor 211). His concern with courtesy—even whilst committing several murders, is one more of his incongruent traits, “I’m sorry I don’t have on a shirt just before you ladies” (O’Connor 209).

Conversely, the characters in “The Lottery” are comparatively regular. Jackson portrays characters such as Joe Summers, the wealthy civic leader of the town who administers the lottery, and Old Man Warner, who is the staunchest advocate of the lottery and tradition, as virtually stock characters to heighten the contrast of the horrifying reality of the lottery. This disparity in between the ostensibly ordinary citizens of the village and the unabashed brutality that ensues makes evident that the events could take place anywhere. Then once again, 1 character we see that is fairly consistent with the American Gothic genre is the “damsel in distress,” in Tessie Hutchinson whilst not technically a damsel, she fills the function, despite the fact that there is no heroic knight prepared or capable to rescue her, as the custom is of higher importance to the townspeople than individualism or heroism.

The characteristic of rich irony is particularly present in “The Lottery.” The entire plot is ironic, with the complete story line unfolding contrary to expectations. The idyllic depiction of the scene as “clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a complete-summer season day” with “flowers … blossoming profusely” and “richly green” grass furthers this illusion that items are ordinary and tranquil (Jackson 572). When the populace begins to gather on the square, the males are “speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” and the ladies are gossiping, absolutely everyone displaying common little-town behaviors that appear even more regular due to the fact of the objective and detached style of the narration (Jackson 573). In possibly the most ghoulish irony, we see Mrs. Delacroix, following chatting amiably with Mrs. Hutchinson in the starting, urging her to “be a excellent sport,” when her family wins the lottery later, when the stoning starts, she picks up a stone so massive she should use each hands, and even encourages others to “hurry up” (Jackson 576-7). Verbal irony is also utilized to additional reinforce the absurdity of institution when Mr. Summers asks if Mrs. Dunbar has a grown boy to draw for her even although “Mr. Summers and everybody else in the village knew the answer … it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask” (Jackson 575).

Consistent with Southern Gothic tradition, irony is pervasive in “A Excellent Man Is Difficult to Find” as well. Equivalent to the “The Lottery,” the story starts with no hint as to the events to come, the grandmother even proclaiming it “a good day for driving” (O’Connor 203). Darker irony surfaces right after the accident when June Star says with disappointment, “But nobody’s killed,” which of course is correct at that moment, but soon will not be (O’Connor 207). One more example of irony is the grandmother herself, a lady that to external appearances has it all collectively with her “white cotton gloves … navy blue straw sailor hat … and a navy blue dress” (O’Connor 202-three). Ironically, she dresses in this style so that “in case of an accident, any person seeing her dead on the highway would know at as soon as that she was a lady” (O’Connor 203). As discussed earlier, the grandmother has no dilemma with relativistic morality. She is also the proximate cause of the family’s misfortune because of her insistence on the side trip she then seals their fate when she blurts out that she recognizes The Misfit, which is ironic in view of the fact that she had been admonishing the family members about the danger of traveling with The Misfit “aloose [sic]” (O’Connor 202). This contrast in between how the grandmother seems and how she really is makes her redemption at the finish of the story, when she finally shows sincere Christ-like adore, all the far more poignant.

In addition to the plentiful irony inside each stories, the titles themselves are ironic as well. The title of “The Lottery” has a constructive connotation of an opportunity to win money or prizes, but this Lottery awards only death. Upon reading the title of “A Excellent Man Is Hard to Discover,” we think that the story will be about finding a great man, or maybe a man who becomes great in the course of the story. Ironically, it is a great woman we locate, and that merely simply because of the influence of The Misfit, who is something but a great man. Each and every story uses irony abundantly and in different methods, and each absolutely exemplifies this attribute of the American Gothic genre.

Even though each stories use numerous of the components of the Gothic literary tradition, clearly “A Good Man Is Tough to Find” conforms considerably far more closely to the traits of the American Gothic genre, and especially, the Southern Gothic sub-genre. “The Lottery,” with its lack of a Southern setting and eccentric, flawed characters is undoubtedly not Southern Gothic, and while it has couple of of the components generally observed in American Gothic fiction, its horrific and macabre events and biting irony remove uncertainty as to its classification as such. In analyzing the Gothic elements of the stories, it becomes clear that in spite of being classified in diverse ways, these stories have one thing in widespread in reality, both stories are contemporary parables, as every single contains a hidden lesson, revealed by thorough evaluation. “The Lottery” forces us to query the virtue of tradition, in light of the indefensible outcome of the story. In a related manner, “A Very good Man Is Difficult to Find” shows us that above all it is not our outward appearance that tends to make us a excellent man or woman, but rather the really like that we have for other individuals.

Functions Cited

“Historical Context: ‘The Lottery’.” EXPLORING Brief Stories. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Pellissippi State Tech. Comm. Coll. four July 2009 <>.

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. New York: McGraw, 2007. 572-578.

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Very good Man Is Tough to Find.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. New York: McGraw, 2007. 202-212.

“O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Tough to Find Is Published, 1955.” DISCovering U.S. History. On-line ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Gale. Pellissippi State Tech. Comm. Coll. six July 2009 <>.

Phillips, Stacy. “Typical Components of American Gothic Fiction.” Gothic Fiction and Poetry: An Online Teaching Resource. Middle TN State U. 11 July 2009 <>.

“Southern Gothic.” Vade Mecum: A GRE for Literature Study Tool. 7 Dec. 2008. Duke U. four July 2009 <>.
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