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In Flannery O Conner s short story Greenleaf Mrs. May is portrayed as a cold, brittle women who is closed to the goodness of living and natural life. Yet, this conclusion is not usually realized upon first reading. First, the reader feels sympathy for her character but, with further analysis, one can see that Mrs. May is not a kind woman. Mrs. May is superficial and tries to hold on to her beauty. Also, one can see that she posses a withered soul unable to be saved.

Upon first reading, one could believe that Mrs. May is a widow trying to desperately to manage a rather run down farm so she can provide for her family. She is plagued by irresponsible help and sons that show much contempt for her. The reader feels sorry for Mrs. May because it seems that she is carrying a tremendous burden.

It is not until an extensive analysis does one find that Mrs. May is truly a brittle, superficial woman trying to hold on to her beauty. In the third paragraph, Mrs. May s attempt to hold on to beauty is expressed. For a second she waited Green rubber curlers sprouted neatly from her forehead and her face beneath them was smooth as concrete with an egg-white paste that drew the wrinkles out while slept. Mrs. May is trying to look like something that is impossible to create. She will never be young again, but she still insists on wasting her life to attempt the goal. Even her name May symbolizes youth and springtime. May, a month filled with joy and fertility is sadly the antithesis of Mrs. May.

Again, Mrs. May does not deserve the sympathy she obtained in the first reading. She is a nasty, cruel, judgmental woman and it takes a bulls goring to wake her up to this fact and save her. Mrs. May passes extreme judgment on Mrs. Greenleaf s praying when she says Oh, Jesus, stab me in the heart…Jesus would be ashamed of you. He would tell you to get up from here this instant and go was your children s clothes! Mrs. May looks down on the Greenleafs. Because the Greenleafs are of a lower class, Mrs. May believes that they are disgrace to human beings. Yet, by her phrase Mrs. May is realized to be a cruel woman. Mrs. May s inability to be saved is witnessed when she winced. She thought the word, Jesus, should be kept inside the church building She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not of course, believe any of it was true. Mrs. May was a model citizen. She went to church when she thought it was needed and respected religion. Mrs. May does not believe anything that the church teaches; therefore, one can see that she does not want to be saved. She is a mechanical person; her soul has withered up. It takes the bulls goring to make Mrs. May realize that she has lived the wrong way. The bull saves her but it is too late. She has been blind but when she is awakened the truth is unbearable and she dies.


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