Gender roles in the 19th Century in America associated with the Story: “A Good Man is hard to find” by Flannery O’Connor


Motherhood has an influence on gender but it should be limited because even though men and women tend to have almost similar biological behaviors, women’s behaviors are easily corrupted causing them to remain inferior to men. Thus, women should not continue fighting for equality as they have done since the 19th century because; men need to maintain their superiority for the best interest of the society. The story: “A Good Man is hard to find” by Flannery O’Connor has been used to illustrate how women’s less resistant to temptations makes them illogical and irrational exposing the family to serious dangers that lead to the death of all the family members. The story also illustrates how motherhood is dangerous in influencing the behaviors of men.

How Motherhood began to Influence Gender Roles from the 19th Century

Cruea constructs how the feminism phenomenon that was never there in America in the early nineteenth century came to exist in the present time. Because of the woman movement that developed in mid-19th century, feminism was bore as women strived to make their gender become considered as a useful one in building the society. As women continued to struggle while extending their domestic roles as caregivers to the rest of the society, religion gave them some space where they found an opportunity to have authority in reforming people’s morals in the society. With time therefore, women began to make use of their positions to dictate which male behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not especially at home. Thus, the best behavior a male person would display was one defined by either his wife or his mother (196). In support of the noted findings, Little and Ron McGivern educate that unlike sex type that is biologically differentiated, gender is culturally and socially defined. That is, in males and females, gender refers to the cultural and social characteristics that influence their respective behaviors. Therefore, sex type does not necessarily match with gender. Leskosek develops the arguments further by exploring what motherhood has been in America from the past. Motherhood was appreciated as the nature of women and that nature had an important mission, which was to ensure children grew and developed in a healthy manner. Hence, to the children, the mother has been the best trainer. Even in marriage, women take their place in controlling and guiding their husbands. In that regard, motherhood influences gender.

Bonventure conveys that motherhood became significant in America at the time when men had to go to war leaving women to play their societal roles. That is besides managing domestic work, women supplied food and other necessary services to the soldiers at war. Following the fact that many men died at the war, many women became widows and needed to take care of their children and themselves. Nevertheless, the motherhood tasks that women managed when their men were at war enabled them to have a chance of liberating their women’s rights. In the absence of the men, women did a lot that made the men that came back to notice the improvements the women had made at home in their absence and even after the war, women continued with their new gender roles. Hence, from that war, the American society drastically changed in terms of gender roles for men and women (53-54).

The Weaknesses of Motherhood in Controlling Men’s Behaviors as illustrated by the Story

The story by O’Connor depicts how the behaviors of a father is controlled by his mother and that control ends up in endangering the family leading to the death of all of the family members. In the story, the author seems to claim that a good man is one who does not allow himself to be controlled fully by his mother. Hence, since motherhood naturally controls behavior of male children, it is difficult to find a good man. In the early 19th century, women were forced to be inferior to the men economically and religiously. Therefore, men dictated the behaviors of their women (World History). Not only were women considered inferior in America during the 19th century, but in many other countries. According to Bergman, it was theoretically believed that females were naturally inferior to males. That is, men could do many things than women would, hence cause the men to be regarded as superior to women in skill and intellectual areas. In the 19th century, men were considered more powerful, logical, active, rational, resistant to temptations, and other biological abilities. On the other hand, women were considered weaker, illogical, passive, emotional/hysterical/mad, less resistant to temptations, and other natural behaviors. Following the biological differences that were defined at the time, the differences seem to be upheld in the current times. That is, even though women have had an opportunity to change their status quo in regards to their gender roles from the late 19th century, they still have not managed to enjoy their rights as women fully as Molloy reports. In the story, Bailey’s mother illustrates the irrational nature of women, which weakens their ability to be equated to men. Women can be superior to men morally but they are easily corrupted and therefore, men need to be allowed to maintain their superiority position in the society.

Scientific explanations

Unlike men, women do not maintain their biological behaviors when disturbed. Hence, when under unusual circumstances, it is believed that men can make good decisions than women can. According to men, women tend to overreact in challenging situations and therefore, they advice women not to follow their feelings in such circumstances. In other words, men are not emotional as women are. To the men, being emotional is a feminine aspect and a person cannot be logical or rational, when he/she is emotional (O’Malley).  Scientifically, men and women have different brain structures that make them have varying ways of thinking. Women think more about feelings unlike men who prefer to think about logical things than feelings. That is, how men and women think is differentiated by what each group values. Women happen to value feelings and men value logical things. Biologically, women tend to make use of the right side of the brain that is holistic and intuitive while men tend to rely on the left side of the brain that is logical, analytical, and sequential. Hence, in decision –making, men are more likely to be factual and logical while women are more likely to be holistic, emotional, and intuitive. When stressed, women take time to deal with the stress unlike men who manage it easily (Chang, et al.).

Chang, et al. state that the gender differences between men and women emerges from the men’s logical reasoning and women’s emotional reasoning. The two forms of reasoning, work by either complementing or opposing each other. Therefore, neither of the two is inferior to the other only that they work differently. When emotional reasoning opposes logical reasoning, it is called illogical reasoning and that is conveyed to be the time when men perceive women to be irrational. Being irrational is described as a deviation from the normal state of the brain where emotions tend to threaten rationality. In the story, Bailey’s mother displayed how she allowed her emotions to affect her morals negatively. In other words, the woman allowed her emotions to interfere with her rational state of her brain by causing her children to go for a trip that she desired to take and pushing Bailey to make a turn to a strange place that she had confused with a house in Tennessee. More so, her strange behaviors with her cat made Bailey lose control of the car and they had an accident.


Gender roles of men and women cannot be equal because, women are weak in maintaining the rational state of the brain. Women tend to allow their emotions to threaten the rationality of the brain and this outcome opposes men’s logical reasoning. The ability of men to maintain their logical reasoning causes them to considered more superior than women in decision-making. However, men can be weak in displaying their superiority when they allow motherhood to control their behaviors/reasoning and when that happens, decisions made emotionally can be dangerous. That is, motherhood tends to portray emotional reasoning and when allowed is a threat to rational/logical reasoning, which is dangerous. Nonetheless, the women’s movement in the fight for gender equality needs to be cautious in acknowledging that the men’s superior role needs to be maintained.  

Works Cited

Bergman, G. “The History of the Human Female Inferiority Ideas in Evolutionary Biology.” Riv. Biol. 95.3(2002): 379-412. Print.

Bonventre, Laurie. The Cult of True Womanhood: Women of the Mid-nineteenth Century and their Assigned Roles as Reflected in Contemporary Writing. 2005. Web. Retrieved<>.

Chang, Deng Y., et al. “Gender Differences in Emotional Response: Inconsistency between Experience and Expressivity.” Plos ONE 11.6(2016). Print.

Cruea, Susan M. Changing Ideals of Womanhood during the Nineteenth-Century Woman Movement. 2005. Web. Retrieved<>.

Leskosek, Vesna. “Historical Perspective on the Ideologies of Motherhood and its Impact on Social Work.” Social Work and Society International Online Journal 9.2(2011). Web. Retrieved<>.

Little, William and Ron McGivern. Chapter 12. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality. (n.d).Web. Retrieved<>.

Molloy, Mark. “How Far have Women’s Rights advanced in a Century?” The Telegraph 6th February 2018. Print.

O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to find and other Stories. (n.d). Web. Retrieved<>.

O’Malley, Harris. “Men really need to stop calling Women Crazy.” 9th July 2014. The Washington Post. Web. Retrieved

World History. Women’s Status in Early 19th Century America. 2017. Web. Retrieved< /american-history/womens-status-in-early-19th-century-america.php”>>.

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