O'Connor's short stories, for some people, might be optimistic since her characters are given opportunities to see themselves for what they are. Her characters, then, have a chance to get rid of their flaws, mostly pride and arrogance. Mr. Head, for example, thinks he's smart and superior to others. However, at the end, he learns that he isn't as good as he thought. "I never seen him before." Saying this, Mr.
Head loses Nelson's trust. Turning his back on his only kin, he is ashamed and realised that he isn't that good. O'Connor put the artificial nigger in the scene as an opportunity for Mr. Head to reconcile with Nelson. Fortunately, he takes that chance and learns the lesson.
However, as for me, her short stories are quite pessimistic. It's true that her characters are given lots of opportunities to gain self-knowledge. But, not every character realises that and takes the chance. Mr. Shift let, for instance, is still the same.
He stills thinks he is a good man, stopping for a hitchhiker. He doesn't realise that it is evil to leave his retarded wife in the middle of nowhere. He even prays to God to "wash the slime from this earth." How ironic! Or if the characters do realise their own flaws, they don't have a chance to improve themselves. Take grandma from A Good Man is Hard to Find for example. Though she realises that she isn't a decent lady as she thought, she is shot dead in the end.
Joy is another character that learns from a painful lesson. All her life, bad things happens to her - disability, short-eyesight, living with her mother who doesn't appreciate her knowledge. Worse enough, she is deceived by the man she thinks she can fool. Her intelligence, the only thing she's proud of, is taken away. Giving up in despair or becoming a better person and learn to live with other people, the story doesn't say how she will deal with this situation.
Either way, I think it must be hard for her. (For me, it's more likely that she will be Hula, not Joy, considering what she's been through for all her life. ) Another thing that makes O'Connor stories pessimistic is the message she implied in the stories. It seems that she really believed a good man is hard to find.
And though there's a good man, it's hard for him to survive in this senseless world. This world, for O'Connor, seems unfit for good people. Grandma, after realising her flaw, is killed. Innocent Lucy nell, who can't take care of herself, is abandoned at a bar by her own husband. In most of her stories, it's bad characters that survive and can go on with their lives.
Misfit and Manley Pointer, for example, are real bad guys. One is a cold-blooded killer, the other is a deceitful boy behind a facade of innocence. Both of them, however, not only survive but also don't get any punishments. After all, the title of this compilation is A Good Man is Hard to Find. And it's so in most of her short stories.