English Composition


Psycho Lit:

Faulkner and O’Connor Discussion Questions


Sting Rays

1.  How is Emily Grierson both protagonist and antagonist in this story?  How would you

     characterize the townspeople in their varying attitudes and treatment of her?  In what

     ways is Emily both an outsider and a pillar of respectable society in her town?  What

     symbols in Faulkner’s story signify this contradiction in her social status?


Whole Grain

2.  How does Homer represent the New South?  Pinpoint other symbols of the Old and

     New South in the text.  Which characters and figures, besides Homer, represent the

     Old and New South?  Also, explain how key passages in the text represent a

     competition of Southern paradigms and of character types. 


Tough Turkeys

3.  Discuss O’Connor’s interrelated themes of manners, appearances, and social

     hypocrisy. Show just how the author balances these themes against that of

     sociopathy and chaos.  How do the Grandmother, Red Sammy, and the Misfit

     embody in various ways these themes?  Examine carefully the conversations between

     the Grandmother and Sammy and between her and the Misfit for evidence.  Touch on

     the ironic tang of the title.  How does it encapsulate the story’s theme?   



4.  Trace the power struggles in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” first between Bailey and

     his mother and then between the Misfit and the Grandmother.  How does the former

     contest set up the battle of wits between the Grandmother and the sociopathic Misfit?

     How does O’Connor at the very beginning of the story foreshadow the final scene? 


Rough Riders

5.  Both “The Devil and Irv Cherniske” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” contain dark

     wood scenes in which the veil of orderly life is utterly and irreversibly rent and tossed

     into chaos.  This trope of the dark wood proves prevalent in literature throughout the

     world: the Garden of Eden in Genesis, Dante’s Divine Comedy: Inferno, “Little Red

     Riding Hood,” “Hansel und Gretel,” Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream,

     Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and The

     Scarlet Letter account for a few notable examples.  How do the dark wood scenes in

     the fictions by Boyle and O’Connor rewrite Genesis? Who, in each case, is recast as

     Adam, Eve, and the serpent?