The themes of innocence and/or experience come out clearly in A good man is Hard to Find by O’Connor, Salvation by Hughes, A&P by Updike and Advice to My Son by Meinke.
The characters in these three stories portray innocence while the theme of experience stands out conspicuously in the poem. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, grandmother shows innocence for she has blind faith and she considers everyone a ‘good man.’ Sammy in A&P shows a lot of innocence as he struggles to handle his feelings towards some scantily dressed young women.
Langston’s innocence leads him to give up on his faith in Salvation while on the other side; Meinke shows experience as he gives, Advice to His (My) Son. The characters in these three stories portray the theme of innocence whilst the narrator in the poem portrays the theme of experience.
In A Good Man is Hard to Find, the grandmother exhibits innocence of a small child. She simply believes everyone is a ‘good man’ without questioning his or her goodness. After Red Sammy questions why he has allowed some strangers to bill their gasoline, grandmother says, “you did it because you are a good man” (O’Connor 30).
Simply because Red Sammy allowed two strangers to bill their gasoline, grandmother calls him a good man; this is innocence mixed with gullibility. When she recognizes Misfit and says that he cannot shoot a woman, the grandmother brands him, ‘a good man’ and calls him “one of my own children” (O’Connor 33).
Due to the grandmother’s innocence, she believes Misfit is a ‘good man’ and thinks that he qualifies to be one of her children simply because he would not shoot a woman and he believes in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, her innocence turns fatal when Misfit shoots her dead. Grandmother’s actions are driven by her innocence as O’Connor brings out this theme.
In A&P, Sammy is very innocent. Due to his innocence, he allows the three girls to enter the grocery even though they are appareled for the beach; something not allowed in this grocery. After the general manager of the grocery reproves the women because of their dressing, Sammy feels embarrassed, removes his apron, and resigns immediately. He says, “…but remembering how he made that pretty girl blush makes me so scrunchy inside” (Updike Para. 7).
He innocently sympathizes with these girls for no good reason to an extent of feeling ‘scrunchy’. He runs out expecting that the three women would sympathize with him only to find they are gone. All these events underline Sammy’s innocence. The fact that Sammy is willing to quit his job because he feels his ‘friends’ have been mistreated, highlights how innocent he is with feelings concerning women.
Hughes in Salvation presents a rare case of innocence. When Langston hears about Jesus’ sermon on the mountain, he takes it literally without knowing Jesus used metaphors. Auntie Reed tells him, “when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to your insides” (Hughes Para. 5). Due to his innocence, Hughes expects to see light and feel something; he believed this because, hitherto he had heard, “a great many old people say the same thing” (Hughes Para. 6).
The fact that Hughes took what he heard literally and believed because he had heard many people say such things in the past underpins his innocence. To cap it all, he finally gives up in believing Jesus because he cannot hear anything in his insides or see any light as Auntie Reed said. The theme of innocence comes out clearly here because Hughes cannot figure out what salvation really means if he cannot literally see what he hears from the adults.
Finally, Meinke as he advises his son portrays the theme of experience. He starts by saying, “live your days/ as if each one may be your last” (Meinke line 1-2). From experience, Meinke knows that the only time a person has is now; yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be; therefore, it makes logic to live life now.
However, from experience he knows that tomorrow may come and to be on the safe side, one has to plan and he says, “But at the same time, plan long range” (Meinke line 5). He has experience to let his son know that there is need to plan for future. Finally, tells his son, “…marry a pretty girl/ after seeing her mother” (Meinke line 17-18). From experience, Meinke knows that girls take after their mothers and these three statements portray experience in the poem.
The characters in A good man is Hard to Find, Salvation, A&P portray the theme of innocence clearly. The grandmother in A Good Man is Hard to Find, due to her innocence believes that everyone is a ‘good man’ because of what he or she does now. Sammy in A&P resigns because he innocently believes that his boss has mistreated the three scantily dressed women.
Hughes in Salvation disowns his faith because he does not see or experience the things that his auntie had associated with salvation. He innocently pronounces Jesus for what people say does not happen like seeing light when someone is saved. Finally, Meinke in Advice to My Son shows the theme of experience. From experience he knows that girls take after their mothers hence advises his son to a girl after seeing her mother.
Hughes, Langston. “Salvation.” Strange Fires. N.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.
Meinke, Peter. “Advice to My Son.” 2006. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Asals, Fredrick. (ed). New York; The State University, 1993.
Updike, John. “A&P.” N.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.