Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Gothic Elements in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “The Lottery

Horrific, extraordinary, macabre, or supernatural events and “an atmosphere of mystery and suspense” are the essentials of the American Gothic genre of literature (Phillips). The Southern Gothic sub-genre sets the events in the American South, makes extensive use of irony, and includes eccentric, deeply flawed characters but who possess enough positive characteristics that the reader finds herself empathizing despite herself. Unlike its parent genre, Southern Gothic is not concerned merely with suspense for its own sake “but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the South” (“Southern Gothic”). The tragic short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, is typifies the Southern Gothic genre. On the other hand, Shirley Jackson’s allegorical tale “The Lottery” incorporates most of these same elements, but the events do not transpire in the South, negating its classification as Southern Gothic. Furthermore, the most common elements of American Gothic fiction: “ghostly legend[s] … omens, foreshadowing, and dreams … highly charged emotional states … damsels in distress … [and] romantic themes” (Phillips) are mostly absent in “The Lottery,” leading one to wonder if the American Gothic genre is...

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