Themes of forgiveness and acceptance in Literature

Posted: November 27th, 2013

Essay Outline

Working Thesis: How themes of forgiveness and acceptance have been displayed in two different forms of literature.

Topic Sentence: The introduction of the poem, Cross by Langston Hughes and the story, a good man is hard to find.

Support: How both works reflect on the theme of forgiveness and acceptance.

Topic Sentence: A good man is hard to find analysis of the themes.

Support: The influence of Christianity in expressing forgiveness.

The influence of selfish motive on the grandmother’s part behind displaying the act of forgiveness and acceptance


Topic Sentence: Explanation of the themes in the poem, Cross by Langston Hughes

Support: Forgiveness and acceptance expressed due to the realization in maturity       stage.

The themes expressed due to the realization that it is the only way for the character to accept his mixed identity.






Themes of forgiveness and acceptance in Literature

            A Good man is hard to find is a story written by Flannery O’Connor and it narrates about a person who kills all the members of his family (Flannery 2). The author uses this situation to investigate the religious perception of grace, in which it is possible for one to receive divine forgiveness through asking. In this case, the murderer’s grandmother is the irrelevant, irritable and overbearing character that arrives at grace at the time of her death when she reaches out to him by finally accepting him as one of her children.

The poem Cross, written by Langston Hughes narrates the author’s experience of having parents from different racial backgrounds. He reveals the difficulty he faced in being trapped between two identities and stereotypes and feels bitter and anger towards his parents for passing on to him genes from two different races (Flannery 2). However, as the poem concludes, the speaker feels more remorseful towards how disrespectful he gets when he talks about his parents in the beginning and decides to forgive them. The above two forms of literature including the short story and the poem reflect on a similar theme of forgiveness and acceptance

Both forms of literature have described different incidents and situations but connect them by using the same themes. In A good man is hard to find, the theme of forgiveness and acceptance have been displayed in an ironical manner, whereby the character receiving forgiveness and acceptance is expected to be undeserving of such treatment (Bloom 140). The story describes the tragic experience of an old woman that includes losing all the members of her family after one of her sons kill all of them and threatens to take her life as well. However, the author attempts to illustrate the concept of divine grace that convicted the old woman. As a result, the conviction gives her the strength and will to forgive and acknowledge him as one of his sons (Flannery 2).

The themes of forgiveness and acceptance are expressed by the character after changing her outlooks or attitudes towards life. The grandmother was portrayed to have an irritable and quarrelsome personality. For example, as she travels with her family for the vacation, she appears to disagree on petty issues. As the family is headed to Florida, she complains on how she would have opted for traveling to the state of Tennessee. However, after some time, she is seen packing her belongings secretly including her cat.

The old woman also displays her irritable character where she gives the family a hard time as she prepares herself through dressing. She does this by taking a lengthily amount of time to dress, and when asked, she defends herself by arguing that in case she died during the trip, she would want people to recognize her as an important lady (Bloom 140). However, the events transform unexpectedly from pleasant to tragic, whereby the family suffers from a car accident.

After the accident, the family is shown waiting for help and the occurrence of a sudden appearance of three men in a car. The car is packed next to where the family is located, and three men show up with guns, as their leader appears to be shirtless. The leader instructs one of the men to look over the family’s vehicle while he politely holds a conversation with one of the family members. However, the old woman recognizes one of the men as one of the famous missing convicts from prison known as “The Misfit” (Bloom 140). He was known for committing the crime for taking the life of his own father.

This conflicting incident causes the Misfit to instruct his followers to kill the whole family. The grandmother goes straight to defending herself by begging them to have some pity on her and spare her the painful death that the rest of her family had gone through. As she tried to sweet-talk the convict, but he completely ignored her until she became speechless. Due to being overly frightened by the situation, the old woman started talking about the unconditional love experienced in Christianity through Jesus Christ. This steered the convict’s level of anger to increase because of having personal issues. Misfit claimed that he was upset with Jesus for failing to give any proof of his physical being and hence he did not want to throw away his precious time believing in an unrealistic existence.

The old woman makes another attempt by stating that Misfit is one of her sons. However, as she tries to reach out her hand to the convict to emphasize how much she accepts him, he angrily responds by shooting her thrice. The grandmother seems to have reconsidered after certain circumstances forced her to do so. For example, before her family was killed she viewed Misfit as the criminal and even announced it the moment she recognized his face. However, after the death of her family, she realized she was in a helpless situation and had to do anything to save herself even if it meant ironically accepting the same criminal who kills her family

This displays the theme of forgiveness and acceptance as being portrayed out of desperation and selfishness instead of true will. Therefore, it is possible that if the old woman was faced by a different situation in which she would have more power over the three convicts, she would probably have ensured that they suffered greater consequences for their actions. The selfish motive is displayed where she appeared to be thinking of her life when she convinced the convict that she had accepted him as one of her sons. Based on the old woman’s aggressive personality, one would expect her to lash back at the convicts for killing her family despite the fact that she would be killed. Instead, she opts to look out for herself and attempts to accept what the convict has done despite it dishonoring the family’s wishes had they been alive.

In the poem, Cross by Langston Hughes, the poet expresses his situation, which he views as unfortunate because he is unable to identify himself within the Black and White race. Langston was raised by a White father and Black mother and therefore, was caught up in the middle between of two racial identities (See 124). In the beginning of the poem, he displays his feelings of bitterness and resentment towards his parents for causing him to be in such a state of confusion and despair.

However, his reaction should not be justified because people are not chosen to exist in a certain way and hence it was wrong for Langston to direct his resentment towards his parents (See 124). Although he suffered the misfortune of being rejected by different racial populations, it would have been better if he utilized his energy to stand up for himself and represent others who share the same fate. However, the poem describes Langston’s transformation of his perception, as he grew older because he realized that it was pointless to direct the blame of his identity crisis towards his parents.

He acknowledged that becoming angry at his parents was not going to help in changing his legacy and hence would only make him live a more unproductive life. In the last stanza, where he states, “My old man died in a fine big house” and “My ma died in a shack”, he expresses how his father died rich as his mother died poor (Harold 170). In addition, Langston becomes puzzled about the state he will inherit between wealth and poverty when his time of death arrives.

However, Langston should not rely on his parent’s state in order to determine his own. This is because his parents’ lives are completely different since people are different. Therefore, the life he lived cannot be the same as his parents and hence he should not use his parent’s situation to determine the state of his future. On the other hand, he might have been succumbed to the external societal pressures in which he was disrespected by its members due to being in an undefined social state between rich and poor. The white people were regarded to be wealthy while the Blacks poor, and since he was of a mixed race, it was difficult for him to identify himself within a particular social standing.

The poem attributes the themes of forgiveness and acceptance to Langston’s realization that his negativity towards his parents was not of any assistance to him in identifying his identity between the Black and the White race. He acknowledges that the more resentful he becomes, the more lost he gets as he tries to establish his belonging in both races. Therefore, he opts to accept the mixed identity he possesses and the only way he can accomplish this is by forgiving his parents and getting over his pessimism. .

Annotated Bibliography

O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Shmoop Literature Guide. Cambridge: Shmoop University, 2010. Print.

The author describes the story as making the viewers believe in the likelihood of a dramatic change within an individual. The story narrates about an elderly woman who has lost all her relatives and how her life is also at risk since her grandson is responsible for their deaths. In addition, the same murderer at the end of the story is received with open arms after his grandmother experiences an unexpected change of heart to forgive his faults. The author questions on the elderly woman’s actions because he perceives it to be odd that the woman decides to forgive someone who killed her family members and threatened her life.

Bloom, Harold, and Blake Hobby. Dark Humor. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2010. Print.

The author in this source describes the story as a poorly fated family vacation experience in which there is an occurrence of an accident. The family involves an elderly woman, her son together with his wife, two children and a pleasing innocent infant. During the journey, the family encounters a group of missing convicts who consist of an intellectual murderer known as the Misfit and two dimwit characters. The author describes the beginning of the story as being humorous and absurd from viewing how the characters of the family members have been illustrated in the story.

Bloom, Harold. Langston Hughes. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008. Print.

The author describes the poet as developing feelings of resentment towards his parents for leaving him in a challenging position of confusion from which he fails to identify his racial identity since both of his parents came from different racial ethnicities. However, as the poem concludes, the poet gets over his resentful attitude and forgives his father in the first stanza while his mother in the following stanza. This is because he finally learns to accept his mixed racial identity with some form of disconnection since he realizes that it will be impossible to know where his lineage will guide him.

See, S. “”spectacles in Color”: the Primitive Drag of Langston Hughes.” Pmla. 124.3 (2009): 798. Print.

The article expresses the poem as the poet revealing the challenges of being in a mixed racial identity. For example, the blacks and whites failed to accept him because he neither belonged to any of their identities. The author attributes this incident to the historic period of the early twenties in which the separation of Blacks and Whites prevailed the existence of the society. As a result, the poem describes how the poet was left in a state of confusion since he was unable to figure out the race in which his identity would match.

Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. St. Paul, MN: University of St. Thomas, 2007. Print.

The article describes how the author of this story forms plots that are usual in the beginning and how they transform to be dramatic as the story concludes when one of the main characters in the story goes through a great disclosure. In addition, the author illustrates the life of the general Southern inhabitants through the story, in which a family goes for a normal occasional trip until disaster hits them when they suffer a car accident. The accident involves the driver losing control and resulting to the car overturning on the side of the road. The article also speculates how the author incorporates the different characters of the story in a distinctive manner.












Bloom, Harold, and Blake Hobby. Dark Humor. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2010. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Langston Hughes. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008. Print.

Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. St. Paul, MN: University of St. Thomas, 2007. Print.

O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Shmoop Literature Guide. Cambridge: Shmoop University, 2010. Print.

See, S. “”spectacles in Color”: the Primitive Drag of Langston Hughes.” Pmla. 124.3 (2009): 798. Print.

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