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But I think we're tyrannized by a misunderstanding of Joyce's notion of the epiphany.
You know: Suddenly Billy understood that his grandmother had always gone through a lot of difficult things, and he resolved he would never treat her that way again.
This kind of conversion notion is based on a very comforting idea—that if only we had sufficient information, we wouldn't act badly.
Human beings have to be re-educated over and over and over again as we swim upstream against our own irrationalities.
(There's a great line in Orson Welles' film Citizen Kane, where one of the protagonist's enemies says to him: "You're going to need more than one lesson, Mr.
And that's one of the great things about what The Misfit tells the Grandmother in the line I like so much.
He's not saying that a near-death experience would have turned her into a good woman.Kane, and you're going to get more than one lesson.")Now, O'Connor really believes that we can flood, momentarily, with the kind of grace that epiphany is supposed to represent.But I think she also believes that we're essentially sinners.He displays an odd regard for the grandmother, who forgives him right before she dies: For Jim Shepard, author of Love and Hydrogen and You Call That Bad, this line has been cause to contemplate what it means to be good—and the value of goodness when it's merely fleeting.If human beings can muster startling flashes of selflessness and generosity, why do we revert so quickly to our flawed, limited selves?Flannery O'Connor's classic short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" moves from satiric family comedy to brutal revelation as a grandmother leads her exasperated family on a wild goose chase in rural Georgia.While looking for the site of her girlhood homestead, she inadvertently brings her whole family to their deaths at the hands of a tortured killer, The Misfit.She is trying to make it not about her, but about the children.In this example, it shows how the grandmother is always trying to get what she wants.He's saying it would take somebody threatening to shoot her every minute of her life.In other words, these conversion experiences don't stick—or they don't stick for very long.