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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST
This story is unlike the others in that the plot is not a series of events leading to a tragic breakdown. This plot hinges on the child's coming to realization of herself. It is a girls coming-of-age story, and one of O'Connor's most direct portrayals of a young person's confusion over religion and sex.
Again, the comic timing is perfect. Also, the characters clearly don't understand each other: the child and her mother think the girls are stupid, and the girls seem to think the same of them. They are all Catholic, however, and when any of them encounter the Protestant sects (Baptists or Church of Christ) the tangles of doctrine are amusing. When the girls sing to the boys in Latin (and the child stand up and screams at them) they confuse them hilariously.
When the child confuses the freak show with a religious service, it is a solemn moment. The child takes the Temple warning seriously, and seems to have not only compassion but deep respect for the freak--respect that the town preachers don't have.
Self-realization comes to the child in this story: she no longer wants to be "mean." We can understand the trials of a young girl who wants to know about sex and adult matters, but who is frustrated by her lack of knowledge and her desire for connection to faith of some sort. The child, by the end, has at least understood the plea of the freak, if not exactly the anatomy.
The Temple of the title is significant in the last vision the girl has: the host, representing the Body of Christ, is dipped in blood and moving below the horizon. The child sees the body, anyone's body, as a Temple, a holy place. It is hinted, not stated outright, that her body is changing--she is certainly curious about sex. Her fantasies all have to do with her body, what other people could do to it and how resilient it would be. She notes how the older girls dress and act. She wants to hide, and be visible.
The religious Themes in this story are direct: the Protestant hymns verses the Catholic ones (the boys call them Jew songs),and the visit to the convent with the service--which provides the child with a moment of peace. She is sad about the freak show in the end--not because she will miss seeing it, but because she understood the freaks basic plea: God made me this way, it was His will. This is one of O'Connor's most directly positive portrayals of religious sentiment.