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A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O' Connery

16 Feb 2017Literature Essays

Setting

The story is set in a rural environment in the southern part of the United States (BestNotes). It is implied, rather than directly stated, that the family is located in Georgia. This is when the grandmother told John Wesley that he should not be disrespectful of his “native state” (O'Connor). The time frame when the story occurred is not mentioned, but it can be dated between 1940s and 1950s (BestNotes).

Plot

The family wants to go on vacation to Florida, but the grandmother tries to dissuade them by speaking about an escaped convict on the loose in the state (O' Connor). This is because the grandmother really wants to go to Tennessee. The family is not convinced; rather, they insist that she stays home. They know she does not want to be left behind.

The next day she is the first one in the car. She is impeccably dressed, so in case an accident occurs and she dies, people would know that she is a lady. The family stops by a place called The Tower to have lunch. The place is owned by Red Sammy, and he and grandmother have a conversation about The Misfit, the escaped convict. Red Sammy says that “a good man is hard to find” (O’Connor).

After lunch, the family proceeds in the trip. Grandmother recalls a plantation she once knew. She arouses the children's interest my mentioning a secret panel in the house. Her son Bailey, who drives the automobile, refuses to go to the said plantation. Due to the children's insistence, Bailey agrees. Later on, the grandmother realizes the plantation she was speaking of was in Tennessee.

Her mistake results in an accident. The vehicle rolls over the road. No one was seriously hurt. The family sees a car approaching, and the passengers were three men. All of them had guns; one of them was shirtless and wore glasses. Grandmother recognizes the man as The Misfit. Another one of the men, Bobby Lee, takes Bailey and John Wesley to the woods. Both are killed. The Misfit's companions bring back Bailey's shirt, and The Misfit wears it. The next to be killed is the mother and June Star. While this was happening, The Misfit and grandmother were having a conversation. She was trying to save herself by appealing to his good side through topics concerning Jesus and religion. In the end, The Misfit still kills her with three shots to the chest (O'Connor).

Theme

The theme of the story is grace and redemption (“Interpretations”). Though at first it appears as if the grandmother was the good one while The Misfit was the evil one, both characters are actually on the same level. Both are selfish and self-centered. Throughout the story, the grandmother manipulated her own family to get what she wanted. In the face of danger, all she thought about was saving herself. On the other hand, the criminal was preoccupied with killing people for his own satisfaction. Her redemption came in the form of the criminal, as she became a better person in his company. His redemption came with his encounter with the grandmother. He may have still resorted to violence, but she still had effected a change in him. It was in their mutual experience from which their moment of grace was derived (“Interpretations”). Their experience brought them closer to God and restored their spirituality (Bernardo).

Style and Structure

The narration is straight-forward. The plot is “linear and standard” (BestNotes). The story has a clear set-up.

Narration

The narration of the story applies both limited omniscience and total omniscience (Essortment). On one hand, limited omniscience allows the readers to understand the story from the point of view of the grandmother. On the other hand, total omniscience is demonstrated by a panoramic view of the third person narrator. This allows the readers to thoroughly understand the story from the grandmother's perspective while getting a better understanding of the story from the non-involved narrator (Essortment).

Climax

The story reaches its climax when the grandmother recognizes that one of the men from the other car was the escaped convict called The Misfit (BestNotes). If she had not recognized him, the entire family would not have been killed. After this realization, the story progressed in a way that resulted in both violence and redemption.

Protagonist

In the story, there was no distinction between good and evil (BestNotes). The lines between protagonist and antagonist were blurred. It is true that the grandmother is the main character of the story; it is also clear that The Misfit was the enemy. However, as was earlier stated, both characters are of equal footing in terms of the theme of the story (BestNotes).

Symbols

The effort of the grandmother to dress like a lady is a symbolism for an implied sense of righteousness (Bernardo). The grandmother believes that the well-dressed appearance is an indicator of goodness or Godliness. Despite her outfit, the woman was anything but godly or good. The grandmother was also a symbol for the rest of mankind, with regards to her response to death (“Interpretations”).

How the Story Begins and Ends

The story starts as a narrative about simple but dysfunctional family. It has a rather innocent beginning, that which proceeds from a family road trip (Napierkowski). However, early on, an escaped criminal is introduced in the story. What initially begins as a wholesome story ends on a violent note, with an entire family murdered in the end.

Conflict

The external conflict begins with the family going on a vacation to the same place were an escaped criminal is freely roaming (BestNotes). There is also another conflict wherein the grandmother wants to go to Tennessee while the entire family wants to travel to Florida. Meanwhile, the internal conflict occurs within the grandmother when she was faced with impending death in the presence of The Misfit. She struggles to stay calm when the rest of her family is murdered. Instead, she proceeds in delaying death by talking about God and religion.

Sociological Interpretations

The grandmother showed the relation between people and their stereotypical response to death (“Interpretations”). Just like everyone else confronting danger, she attempts to delay her impending death as she is not ready to die. The concept of death strikes fear in many people because they have no spiritual connection.
Spirituality becomes a sociological issue because it is connected to the reasons why crimes are committed (Bernardo). The Misfit's lack of spirituality triggers his violent tendencies. Because he does not accept God, he might as well do as he pleases even if it hurts others. What is initially a religious concern begins to have social implications as well.

Main Idea

The grace of God can be received by simply asking for it (Napierkowski).

Main Characters

The two main characters are the grandmother and The Misfit. The grandmother is a Southern lady which maintains an old fashioned attitude. However, she is not the picture of goodness. She is manipulative, cunning and self-absorbed. The Misfit is the escaped convict; he appears smart and polite. However, he kills and is not in the least affected by his deeds.

Works Cited

  • Bernardo, Karen. “Flannery O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Storybites. 29 May 2008 http://www.storybites.com/oconnorgoodman2.htm.
  • BestNotes. Free Study Guide: A Good Man is Hard to Find. 
  • Essortment. “Flannery O'Connor 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.”.
  • “Interpretations of ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’” Armstrong Atlantic State University.
  • Napierkowski, Marie Rose, ed. “A Good Man is Hard to Find: Introduction.” Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 1998.
  • O'Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” University of Central California. 

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