This third short story of Flannery O’Connor proved to intrigue me, more so than the previous two short stories. The narrator tells us about Old Gabriel, a blind man. His grandkids are trying to hunt a wildcat in the woods. Old Gabriel flashes back to when he was their age, and their was a wildcat near the house. Young Gabriel was left with the women by the men, who went to hunt the wildcat. Old Gabriel was left by the grandkids, who go hunt for the wildcat.
The main idea that I glean from this story is something that Flannery O’Connor may or may not have intended her reader to think about with regards to this story. I like to think she did intend it–but I am not claiming to know O’Connor’s mind. What I get from this short story is the following: Evil is not so far off (in the woods), rather, evil is closer than we think it is (next to the house).
Take a look at the book of Mark:
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit,sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23 ESV)
So, not only is evil (according to Scripture) closer than we thought, just on the porch; the evil is within the heart of man, the wildcat is inside the house!
Hear Old Gabriel’s thoughts about the wildcat:
Mattie’s! Take him to Mattie’s! Settin’ wit the women. What yawl think I is? I ain’t afraid er no wildcat. But it comin’, boys; an’ it ain’t gonna be in no woods–it gonna be hear. Yawl wastin’ yo’ time in the woods. Stay here an’ you ketch it. (p. 30)
The evil is here.