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Precious Byakutaga

English 112

Central Piedmont Community College

Professor Gary Walker

26 April 2017

A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O Connor; Literary Analysis

About the author:

The only child of her parents, Flannery O Connor was one of the best American short-essay

writer and author from the twentieth century. She was born in Savannah, Georgia on 25th March

1925. She lost her father to a chronic illness when she was a teenager and lived a life of hardship

afterward. She had to leave her home town when his father became seriously ill and it was from

there, that life gave her tough time. She belonged to a Roman Catholic family and her beliefs

were reflected in her various writings, particularly pointing ethics out. She graduated from the

Georgia State College for Women in 1945 and attended the University of Iowa Writers

Workshop, for creative writing, in 1946.

She became an important voice in the American literature through 32 short stories, 2 novels

and various commentaries and reviews, with her first novel being Wise Blood (published 1952).

She wrote in Southern Gothic style and the majority of her work involved gnarled characters

from regional settings. The U.S National Book Award for Fiction 1972 was awarded to her

Complete Stories. She died at the age of 39 on 3rd August 1964.

A Good Man Is Hard To Find

This short story is one of the finest of works by Flannery. Written in the year 1953, the curtain

rises with the protagonist Grandmother manipulating her son Bailey into traveling to

Tennessee. She highlights the Misfit and their fear and the readers are introduced to the

characters of the story, as the central idea builds up. The main characters of the story include

Grandmother, her son Bailey, his three sons including June Star and John Wesley, owner of the

old diner Red Sammy and The Misfit and his gang and other characters that play minor roles.

The character of Grandmother is an old yet nave woman who is selfish. She wants others to

think of her as a respectable person than being one and considers the traditions of the past better

than the present and the old generation better than the newer generation.


As the story begins, Grandmother forces her Bailey to change his decision of visiting

Florida and travel to Tennessee. She uses the news of Misfit, an escaped prisoner spotted in

Florida, in order to convince her son to change his mind and travel to the place of his mothers


The day of the visit starts with the Grandmother being the first one to take a seat in the car. She

hides her cat, Pity Sing, in a basket and carefully manages to keep it on the cars floor. She

dresses up formally with a hat covering her head, claiming that she wants to look like a

respectable person and a lady, in the case of meeting an accident on the road and dying.

As the children and their mother get settled in the car and Bailey begins to drive, Grandmother

begins telling jokes to the two older children and tries to engage them in games as well, but the

children, being least interested in what she had to tell, pass disdain comments. Throughout the

journey, she grows to be more and more selfish and irritating. She recalls her youth and mentions

that those times were better, comparing the newer generation to the older in terms of being

respectful. As the family takes a break for lunch at the old diner, Grandmother engages the owner

in a conversation regarding the same topic and he agrees with her on glorifying the older times. It

is during this conversation, that Sammy makes the statement A good man is hard to find. On

resuming the journey, she tells a story about a mysterious house that she remembers from her

childhood and the children finally become interested. Not only this, they force their father to visit

the house and he reluctantly agrees to the idea. On their way to the mysterious house,

Grandmother suddenly recalls that the house was not in Georgia, but it was there in Tennessee.

On getting shocked at this realization, she kicks the floor of the car unconsciously that frightens

the cat who jumps to Baileys neck and boom! The car crashes into a trench below the road. As

the Baileys wife is injured, Grandmother only thinks of dealing with Baileys anger. It becomes

tough for them to get out of the ditch when suddenly, she notices a black vehicle growing

prominent toward them. She flags up a signal and calls for help. When three figures jump out of

the vehicle, Grandmother recognizes one of them and mentions him to be The Misfit. This

follows the confirmation of Grandmothers recognition and also an expression of the man that it

would have been better for them all if she had not recognized him.

In the climax, Bailey and John receive gunshots as they get killed in the woods by The

Misfits men. The men return to take the baby, June and their mother and Grandmother

constantly begs for her own life, proving her selfishness yet again. The Misfit and Grandmother

talk about Jesus and he yells at her, claiming life has no pleasure but meanness. On getting

perplexed, she mistakes the Misfit to be crying and tries to comfort him through reaching out and

touching his shoulder gently. She tells him Youre one of my own children, and in an instant,

Misfit turns to shoot her straight in her chest. Resolution: after the whole family is dead, Misfit

exclaims, She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody to shoot her every

minute of her life. The story ends with his words: Its no real pleasure in life.


Good vs Evil: at the climax, there is an argument between the evil figure, The Misfit, and

Grandmother, the delusion of goodness that is only superficial. Grandmother seems to be having

excellent manners, decent choices and coming from the right people, but in reality, she is

nothing but a selfish old lady. The Misfit was known for his cruelty and evil character but the

confrontation between these two characters makes the understanding of goodness clear. This is

the central theme of the story.

Religion: The argument between the Misfit and Grandmother at the climax, revolving around

Jesus, forms the core of this theme. Grandmother believes that the Misfit would, spare her life,

unlike her family, because of his religious beliefs and so she keeps praying. However, it turns out

that the Misfit had a greater understanding of the religion as was expected. Grandmother appears

to have received divine influence, which might transform the Misfit and herself.

Manipulation: Connor weaves the story as a tale embodying good, evil and divine influence.

However, by most of the critics, it has been rather taken as more of a cynical story. The

protagonist manipulates other characters for her own interests, including her own family and the

criminal, taking the lives of her children.

Class and Society;

To Grandmother, it is very important to appear as a decent lady with elegant manners. She

depicts the old Southern mindset and thrives on nostalgia for olden days when children used to

be respectful. In her opinion, blacks, to whom she passes a racist name: niggers had no sense of

manners and they were inferior. All this, including her association with respectable family and

belonging to a high social class, leads her to believe that she a poised person. However, how her

sensibilities change in front of the Misfit, comes up with an important theme.


Works Cited:

Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor: The Complete

Stories (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), p. 119.

Literature Resource Center
Walls, Doyle W. OConnors A Good Man is Hard to Find. The Explicator 46(2)

(Winter 1988): 43-45.

O'Connor, The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South, pp. 202-03.
O'Connor, On Her Own Work, p. 112

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