Jim Shepard's essay in The Atlantic about the conclusion of Flannery O'Connor's unforgettable short story "A Good Man Is Hard To FInd" got me thinking about contemporary TV series in which the hero (more often, anti-hero) isn't allowed to change too much.
He focuses on what a criminal ("the Misfit") says about an old lady near the end of the story: "She would have been a good woman ... if it had been someone there to shoot her every minute of her life." Shepard's interpretation:
... He's not saying that a near-death experience would have turned her into a good woman. He's saying it would take somebody threatening to shoot her every minute of her life.
In other words, these conversion experiences don't stick — or they don't stick for very long. Human beings have to be re-educated over and over and over again as we swim upstream against our own irrationalities.
This repetition is not necessarily a flaw, not if Shepard is right and our irrationalities keep returning to wipe out the enlightenment we might experience when faced with a gun.
BTW, you can read the comments below Shepard's post for a spirited literary debate. (He seems to have gotten a couple things wrong about O'Connor's story.)
HT to Andrew Sullivan.
Cross-posted at Robert David Sullivan.