Julie question how at one point this

Julie Harper

Dr. Keith Russell

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

English 102

16 January 2017

 

 

The
Element of Shock and Surprise

            Every great story has an element of
surprise, shock, or perhaps sometimes both. It is the element of the unexpected
happening that engages readers to continue reading a story or a book. If a
story is predictable it can make it boring and non-engaging to its readers.
Sometimes a story begins with important background information that influences
the way you react to the unexpected shocking or surprising moment in the story
and other times the shocking or surprising moment is what defines the theme of the
story. Both Battle Royal and A Good Man Is Hard to Find share a
common theme in their elements of shock being very violent. In Battle Royal the violent mistreatment of
fellow human beings makes the reader question how at one point this treatment
was widely accepted as normal. In A Good
Man Is Hard to Find the reader is left to wonder how a human being could
become so monstrous that the violent killing of a whole family, could be
comedic and pleasuring. Ultimately it how, us, as the readers, react to the
surprise or shock that shapes our opinion and understanding of the story. In
past times the readers response to either could have been much different than
today.

             There is an element of surprise in which a
story carries more meaning and context but an unexpected event happens in the
story which changes how we receive the meaning or context.  For example, in Ralph Edison’s short story, Battle Royal, there are two main elements
of shock. Unlike in some stories the author gave the reader quite a bit of
background before he added in the first element of shock. The story begins with
the grandfather’s last words, ‘”Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the
good fight, I never told you but our life is a war and I have been a traitor
all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s county…Live with your head in the lions
mouth. I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree
’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide
open'” (Edison, 275). The grandfather’s words not only haunt the narrator of
the story, who remains unnamed, but also the reader throughout the events of
the story. Here we have a highly intelligent young man wanting nothing more
than to prove himself capable and smart in a time when merely the color of his
skin dictated what everyone expected of him.  When the narrator of the story walked into the
ballroom, where the most affluent men of the town were mingling, he was
anticipating wowing them with his speech however, that would not be his first
task of playing part in entertaining the men. He realized that first, they
meant him to blindly fight against other young men of his color (Edison 276).
Before the fight began came the first big disgusting and shocking event of the
story. The author’s description of the narrator’s emotions towards the woman
not only shocked the reader but also himself. The narrator said, in reference
to the naked, sensual woman, ‘”I wanted at one and the same time to run from
the room”‘ (Ellison 277). He describes a mixture of emotions which makes
himself and the reader question if his intentions are the same as the monstrous
men surrounding him, who leered and groped at the emotionless dancing woman.

The
second major element of surprise to the reader in Ellison’s Battle Royal is the gruesome blind battle
royal that the young black men were forced to fight each other, nearly to the
death, solely for the affluential men’s entertainment. Following the violent
fighting matches, the narrator and the other fighters struggle for the money the
drunk white men threw on the ground, only to be tricked into being electrocuted.
His unbending desire to show his true self through the end was surprising. If
the author would have merely written that the narrator went to the event and
presented his speech and received the scholarship, without having to endure the
revolting white men’s mistreatment of their fellow human beings, the story
would have carried a much different weight.

Sometimes
an element of shock and surprise is in a story where little background
information is given by the author. A
Good Man Is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor is a good example of this
concept. O’Connor is well known for her often chaotic, confusing way of telling
a story, and as a reader you are oftentimes only guessing at what the meaning
of the story was. In A Good Man Is Hard
to Find O’Connor grants the reader some details of the family’s trip
leading up the moment of the shocking and gruesome murder of the Florida-bound family
in the woods. The general theme of the story is assumed to be, what defines a
“good man.” Can a murderer be a “good man” in a sense? One of major characters
in the story is the grandmother who ultimately wants to see the good in
everyone and whom encourages her family to take a side trip to see an old
plantation which unbeknownst to her would cause the gruesome murder of her
family. The first surprising element in the story was the accident caused by
the grandmother’s cat and the traveling family’s strange reactions to it. “”We’ve
had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed in a frenzy of delight” (O’Connor 432).
Not only were the children’s strange reactions surprising the way the family
reacted to the accident was unexpected. Although there were small hints leading
up to the accident, this was the first time as a reader, that you begin to
realize something is very wrong, therefore keeping you engaged in the
story.   

The
missing background information that makes the surprising events that followed
the accident somewhat confusing to story’s readers, is who exactly was The
Misfit? Who did he represent and did the grandmother really know him? O’Conner
wrote, “The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring.
‘You’re the Misfit!’ she said. ‘I recognized you at once!'” (O’Connor 433). The
whole time the family is taken one by one into the woods to be murdered by the
other men in The Misfit’s posse, the grandmother and The Misfit carry on a long
conversation on rather or not he was a “good man” and argued that if he was a
“good man” how he would he allow and enjoy the murders. The Misfit describes
his life leading up to his time spent in jail and how it felt being in prison,
“”I was a gospel singer for a while…I was never a bad boy that I remember of…but
somewhere along the line I did something wrong and got sent to penitentiary. I
was buried alive”” (O’Connor 435). As a reader after the shock passes of the
violent events in the story you are still left to wonder, was The Misfit ever a
“good man?” In previous times the idea of a character in a story gruesomely
killing a whole family including a baby, would have been even more shocking
than it is today.

            In both Battle Royal and A Good Man
Is Hard to Find the element of shock and surprise not only keeps the reader
engaged but also shapes their opinion on the important take away elements of
the story. In Ellison’s Battle Royal the violent and shocking events that led up
to the narrator presenting his speech not only began to shape his future but
also shaped the readers opinion of who he was as a person and the time in which
he lived. In O’Connor’s A Good Man Is
Hard to Find quite a bit of important background is missing especially
about The Misfit, so we can only assume The Misfit was a psychotic monster who
orders his men to kill the whole family and kills the grandmother himself in
the end. Throughout the dialog and some of his actions he showed some sympathy,
however in the end The Misfit and his posse shocking joke about the violent
murder of a whole family. As readers we have to wonder why we are less shocked
at the violent events that take place in both stories than readers may have
been in previous times.  

 

Works
Cited

Ellison, Ralph. “Battle Royal.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Ed Michael Meyer. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2013.
275-284. Print.

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is
Hard to Find.” The
Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed Michael Meyer. 10th ed.
Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2013. 427-437. Print.

x

Hi!
I'm Dana!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out