Dancin' with My Darlin': The Grandmother's Demon Lovers in ‘A Good Man’
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's signature story has a series of demon lovers as she moves through the last day of her earthly life. An intensely desiring creature, her desires controls the plot. She desires Bailey to take the imminently vacationing household to east Tennessee, rather than Florida, since an escaped felon called The Misfit is "aloose" and headed south himself (137). She desires her raucous grandchildren to understand that she had in the past possessed great personal power over men. "[O]nce when she was a maiden lady, Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper, who later became wealthy by having invested early in Coca Cola stock, courted her (140). The grandmother as desiring lover dances through the pages of the text. Deborah Lutz defines desire in The Dangerous Lover: "When we long, we encounter our own absence" in that we acknowledge what Rilke calls an "aching state" of "my life without me. Yearning lives the emptiness at the back of being: it points to the essential openness at the heart of existence" (ix). The demon lover, "the dark, estranged antihero" with "his restless inquietude, his remorseful and rebellious exile from comfortable everyday living" can make real for us that which is hidden in the uncanny: our most authentic selves (x). The grandmother courts encounters with the uncanny. Her sullen son, her abandoning early lover, the restaurateur Red Sammy Butts, and finally the philosophical felon, all serve in passing as objects of her desire, and each man both dashes and fulfills her longing.
Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O'Connor
Hewitt, Avis, "Dancin' with My Darlin': The Grandmother's Demon Lovers in ‘A Good Man’" (2010). Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants. 37.