The short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, is written by Mary Flannery O’Connor. First published in 1953, and soon became the most well known of O’Connor’s stories. As the story begins, The Grandmother is complaining about attending the family roadtrip to Florida, as she would prefer to visit her friends in East Tennessee. She worries her son, his wife, June Starr and John Wesley, whom are their children, and the baby, about The Misfit.
The Misfit is a serial killer who has escaped from the Federal Penitentiary who is “on the loose” and the grandmother exclaims that if they travel to Florida, the family will be put in danger. By the end of “A Good Man is hard to Find”, the grandmother has manipulated the family into being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the family comes face to face with The Misfit and his team, ultimately leading to the death of all family members. As readers indulge in this short story, I come to realize that it’s overall purpose is the recognition that there is kindness in everyone. O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is written in third person narration, however, focus mainly on the grandmother and her overall thoughts and reactions throughout the story. The author intensifies the text and characters by incorporating literary devices to not only express her style of writing but to also add suspense to the story. For example, when the grandmother exclaims “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it.
I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.” (page 1), this foreshadows how later on in the text, the grandmother convinces the family to travel down a dirt road to visit a plantation she was familiar with. When she realizes they are in the wrong location, she is embarrassed at her mistake and kicks her feet. Pitty Sing escapes from the basket and scares Bailey, in which steers the car into ditch. Afterwards, the family is faced with the most horrifically dangerous situation of their lives and The Misfit.
Imagery plays an important role throughout “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by making the characters experience a series of emotions. “Visually descriptive or figurative language” is recognized in the forest that surrounds the ditch where the family’s trapped after experiencing a disastrous car accident, “tall and dark and deep” (3), is a threatening image that suggests the upcoming death of the family. Also, the quote “They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island.”(page 2), can be recognized both as a simile (a comparison between two things using “like or as”) and as an aspect of foreshadow; a grave for each member of the family, implying they will die late on in the story. O’Connor allows the readers to imagine the text as a real image by using specific details and tones. The story takes place “on and around back country roads in the South”.
Bailey’s family is currently living in Atlanta, however, travels through Georgia to meet their final destination, Florida. The family stops at The Tower, a restaraunt on route to Florida to eat. The restaurant is owned by a man named Red Sammy and his wife. After lunch, the family takes a detour down a dirt road to visit an old plantation with a “secret trapdoor” (page 3), as the grandmother describes. Due to the fact the grandmothers influence of this detour, they are in a “less populated, isolated area near the woods” when they ultimately suffer a car crash and undertaken by the Misfit and his crew. The setting is also followed through to the character’s and the way they speak.
The wife of Red Sammy says, “Isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you can trust…and I don’t count nobody out of that, not nobody.”(page 2). O’Connor carefully writes the dialogue of her characters to reflect where they are from, Atlanta. The Grandmother is a very important character in the text as her traits of manipulation, selfishness and everything must revolve around her. When the Misfit eventually commits murder on the family, the grandmother never once begs him to spare the lives of her children, or grandchildren. She plead’s for her own life because she can’t envision the Misfit wanting to kill a woman.
The grandmother seems certain that he’ll recognize and respect her own moral code, as she believes it will get through to him despite his criminal ways. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!” (page 3). In her final moments of life, one on one with the Misfit, she understands where she has gone wrong in her life. Instead of being superior, she realizes she is in fact flawed like others. The grandmother shares with the Misfit that he is “one of her own children,”(page 3), expressing that she has found the ability to see others with compassion and understanding.
In this moment of being assured with her life, she is immediately killed. Following this last scene in the story, arises conflict between both the grandmother and the Misfit. If he were to spare her life, I believe she would be a better person due to the fact that in her final moments of life, she became wise and obtained a different view of not only hers, but life in general. The Grandmother plays an important role in the overall theme of the story, taking advantage of those that you love can lead to one’s ultimate downfall.
The grandmother is a selfish woman who uses manipulation to get what she wants throughout “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, but is towards the end, is ultimately unable to save herself and family by her actions and words. Several scenes in the story show the grandmas tactic of using manipulation on others that surround her, including her family members. Taking advantage of those that cared about her lead to the guilt she faced herself with when The Misfit murdered her family. In the end of O’Connor’s “Southern Gothic” short story, the grandmother reaches out to The Misfit and refers to him as one of her children. As she experiences this “moment of grace” she is filled with love and understanding, that enables her to see The Misfit as a suffering human being whom she is now obligated to love. Following a theoretic allusion that from a Catholic’s point of view, the grandmother, as a human being has been evil, petty, and selfish throughout the the story, and could never have come to feel such love without the help of God himself. This relates back to the overall purpose of “A Good Man is Hard to find”, in which there is in fact kindness in everybody. O’Connor creates a meaningful story as a whole because the readers are enlightened and shocked by the end of the story and left with positive intentions.