A Good Man is Hard to Find
Society and Class Quotes Page 1
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Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (12)
How the grandmother appears to other people is very important. Her insistence on image and appearance illustrates her comical superficiality. Being a well-dressed, proper southern lady at that is what matters.
"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground," John Wesley said, "and Georgia is a lousy state too." "You said it," June Star said (16-17)
June Star and John Wesley have a different sense of the South than their grandmother. They look down on the people around them, and don't respect their origins. In that respect, they seem like kids from a more "modern," middle-class southern family with less of a sense for their roots and the norms of old southern society.
"In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veiled fingers, "children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said, and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. (18)
The grandmother recalls those days of old when people were more respectful. This kind of decency, which is tied to being a "gentleman" or a "lady," is what she thinks it means to be good or to do what's right. In other words, her understanding of goodness if very class-based. What's particularly funny about this passage is the contrast is between the "respect" she's just talked about and her use of the word "pickaninny," a disrespectful and discriminatory term used to refer to African-American slave children. It shows how much of her mindset still belongs to an older southern generation, with their racial prejudices.