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The story ‘A good man is hard to find’ revolves around a group of family who sets out to visit an old house, but falls victims in the hands of the most wanted criminals. They are murdered on the spot. Social setting here plays a major role in this story because each character is developed by it. The family members find themselves trapped together when they have an accident thus landing in the hands of the criminals. The setting of this story shows strong social ties exists and the family consist of extended members as well. The father loves his mother (grandmother) and agrees to her idea of visiting the old house.
The story A&P is developed in a grocery setting where three girls walks in the A&P grocery where a teenage named Sammy works, he becomes so distracted by the girls that he develops passion and love for them (David 13). This makes him differ with his manager over the girl’s harassment and he is forced to quit the job. Events in the story are linked by the story’s setting which shows discrimination and disregard to social norms. Sammy falls a victim as he is entangled in this social degradation, he ends up suffering and living a lonely life, he however, does not view this as a sad encounter because he is exposed to the world and he struggles to make ends meet.
Comparison of the Importance of Setting on the Fate of the Characters
A Good Man is Hard to Find
The story has a religious setting which is depicted in a shocking aspect of salvation. The social life of the characters like the Misfit revolves around Salvation. Salvation here is violently shown by characters like misfit who does not consider himself a terrible person. He wonders a lot about Jesus and whether He raised dead people. His view of salvation is however in question because, what he does is very contrary to what ought to have been done by a religious person. He forms the basis of our comparison on the importance of setting on the fate of the characters.
The grandmother- this is a woman who lives with Bailey and the family. She is portrayed as a victim of circumstances when she suggests an idea of visiting some old house. This leads to an accident and everyone in the group is murdered as a result. The house she meant turned out not to be near where she suggested. Although her Son, the Father, initially refused her idea, he is bothered by the young boy and he gives in. this shows a strong social bond exists between these characters. The social standards of the family allow them to stick together and they are portrayed having some occasional outings. Before the grandmother is killed, she comes to her senses and remembers the house which is in Tennessee. The people from Tennessee were better off than those from people who lived in the outskirts of the city, as a result of this, the grandmother meets criminals who live by the road and makes their living by robbing people. Her argument with Misfit enrages him and he shoots her.
The setting and timing are done very well because, at the time the family had an accident, it occurs that in the same place, the woods (Flannery 70), the Misfit and his three other men, had escaped and decided to stay there. At the time of their death, the location where the grandmother suggested partly contributes to their downfall because; it was a remote and lonely place where it was very difficult to get help. It happen that Misfit and his men had chosen this place because of its conduciveness in doing their robbery. Because of this location, Misfit finds it easy to shoot the grandmother himself while his henchmen kill the rest of the family.
Economic situation of the setting of the story develops the characters. The economy is poor and the characters like Misfit and his three men come from poor backgrounds, the only thing they can do is to be criminals in order to earn a living. Because these people are unable to do something constructively, they have resorted to rob people. It is unclear how they managed to escape from prison; this also shows the insecurity that exists in the story. The government is unable to contain the situation and the most wanted criminals live by the woods and continue to torture and kill innocent citizens.
‘‘John Updike’s A &P’’
In this story, the setting has been done during the time of economic depression, it is also evident that there are discriminations in workplaces as evident in the character Sammy who works very hard but his life seem the same. This shows that he earns very little that cannot sustain him and the family comfortably. His efforts to flee from this only lands him in big troubles because he cannot get another job due to unemployment caused by economic depression, and he ends up being lonely. Despite working in one of the biggest grocery in USA, he is not satisfied with his wages and this prompts him to quit job. In the story ‘a good man is hard to find’ economic depression has rendered many unemployed and some characters like the misfit and the three men, have resorted to criminal activities as a way of survival.
John Updike’s A & P, has a similar setting as the story a good man is hard to find. The setting is timely done and connected with the role of the characters in the story as described by the writer (Updike 1). In both stories, there is economic depression and social degradation.
Social dilapidation is shown when the three girls visit the Grocery where Sammy was working. Although he had not known them before, he has a strong passion in them and this affects his behavior in a mysterious way. He even decides to quit job in protest of the Manager’s mistreatment of the girls. Mizener emphasized that, “despite knowing what the job will cost him, he does not change his mind” (37). His character resembles that of the grandmother in ‘ a good man is hard to find’, the grandmother knew the consequence of confronting the criminals but went ahead anyway, similarly, Sammy knew that the world would not be easy for him but decided to stick by his decision.
The setting of ‘A&P’ also resembles that of ‘A good man is hard to find’ in that, in both settings, there is disregard of rules and social norms. Sammy is drawn by the fact that the girls are scantily dressed. In ‘A good man is hard to find’, there is breakdown of values as seen in the characters; June star and John Wesley. They have sassy tongues but despite this, their parents do not purpose to discipline them. Barley’s mother attests to the fact that the world has indeed gone astray. He argues out that people are no longer nice like they were. The restaurant’s owner, Red Sammy is also scantily dressed as his khaki trousers is only limited to the hip bones leaving his stomach hanging over them. This shows lack of respect and social degradation when it comes to dressing or use of words.
Sammy ends in a bad state after quitting the job, with only a white shirt. He wonders where to go and feels very lonely. This shows the economic status of those living in poverty and how they end up suffering once they decide to carry on without the help of their seniors. His family members like his mother, was in a poor condition and despite working for a long time was unable to move out of the poverty triangle. The social standards of these characters make them suffer and to be misused by their bosses. Although Sammy was determined to be like his boss, eh would have ended up in the state of her mother without becoming what he aspired to be. This shows a society where the poor continue to be poor while the rich increase their wealth immensely.
In both the stories, the social status of the characters makes them fall victims. Sammy in ‘A&P’ realizes that if he continues to work in the grocery, he will end up just like his parents and will work unsuccessfully to be like his boss- the manager (Updike 1). Poverty makes him have self realization which also turns out against him because he ends up suffering. In ‘A good man is hard to find’, poverty changes the lives of the victims; they end up suffering and loosing their lives through murder as a result of the accident. (Amanda 274). This is because they could not afford a better place to go for their family trip except the old house.
‘A&P’ is set in an immoral social context where there are evils. This is the same case with the story ‘A good man is hard to find’ (Updike 1). In ‘A&P’, the three girls enter the grocery dressed in skinny swimming suits and ends up distracting everyone working there, this shows disregard to social norms and the immorality that is practiced here (Updike 2). This is further supported by the fact that, when Queenie is questioned, she does not see anything bad with how they are dressed. This baffles the manager who is greatly concerned by the distractions that the girls have caused. In ‘A good man is hard to find’, Flannery stated that “misfit does not have any concern for morals and he kills mercilessly without feeling that he does the wrong thing” (42). He does not consider himself a bad man and thinks that he does what is best.
Both stories can be compared based on their setting which is strongly developed by the characters involved. The writer portrays an immoral setting where social norms are disregarded and in both cases, this leads to serious sufferings. Both the stories are constructed in an urban setting which is characterized by many evils adopted by the characters that live there. The location of the characters affects their livelihood and as seen in ‘a good man is hard to find’, Misfit kills without seeing anything bad with what he does. This shows how morality has tarnished the values and humanity of people of these towns. In A&P, Sammy is beleaguered by the girls to the extent that he does not value his work anymore, he decides to leave job for a mere reason that the girls were mistreated.