The story of a Good man is hard to find by O’Connor depicts the callous murder of a family on vacation by a group of convicts led by a serial killer ‘Misfit.’ Particularly, O’Connor integrates a religious aspect to the story as the violent experience underwent by the characters regardless of their spiritual and physical grotesque led to salvation. Praises allocated towards the story comes forth due to the succinct assimilation of the rich comic of a southern milieu that enabled the author to record keenly the existing idiosyncratic dialects of the various characters such as The Misfit and the grandmother. The symbolism existing in the short story mainly concerns good vs. evil as the grandmother fights against the evil acts of the Misfit. The symbolism presents O’Connor with the ability to provide an exemplifying meaning to her short story whereby the grandmother, nature, woods, as well as the underlying surroundings, portray the constant existence of battle between good and evil in the society.
The story begins by unraveling an unappealing family: a manipulative and vain grandmother, taciturn son Bailey, and the passive wife with a baby. Bailey as well has two other children John Wesley and June Star. Regardless of the alarming newspaper reports concerning escaped convicts Misfit, the family plans to travel from their hometown Georgia to Florida. The grandmother alarmed by the escaped convict tries in vain to persuade her son to change the destination of their travel away from the fugitive’s vicinity. After the narration of a secret nearby plantation house, the children gain interest and thus forcing Bailey to undertake an unplanned detour through a rough patch of road in search of the mysterious house.
Upon the realization that she had confused the location of the house, the grandmother releases her cat from hiding and causes Bailey to lose control. Trying to gain control after the wreck, three men came to their rescue, but the grandmother recognizes the Misfit, but regardless of her desperate attempts to win the fugitive’s confidence each of the family members is shot after being led into the woods. However, left with the misfit the grandmother calls upon the convict for prayer as she attempts to beg for her dear life as the Misfit argued that Jesus offered him no choice concerning blind faith and violent nihilism (O’Connor and Gavin, 2011). Feeling the pain expressed through the Misfit narration, the grandmother gains a feeling of kinship, but as she seeks to touch him in a means of consolation, the convict reacts by shooting her multiple times.
The grandmother’s frequent application of the term “good” indiscriminately blurs the eventual definition of a “good man” as it ultimately loses meaning completely. For example, she labels Misfit a good man after she tested his morality through posing the question if he had ever shot a lady before. However, misfits answer and action that included shooting the grandmother was an indication that he did not adhere to the same morality codes as the grandmother. The grandmother through her actions was a representation of a savior. The story perceives her as a savior whose grace was unlimited and is quite evident when she tries to save the Misfit outlaw from evil ways. Portraying the grandmother’s good character in the story, O’Connor exemplifies the touch of grace and saving when the grandmother reaches out to offer consolation to the Misfit fugitive.
The existing critics of the story a “Good Man is Hard to Find” also accept the descriptive redemption tale brought forth through the story. The story exemplifies its religious concerns through a series of emblems and motifs that the author superficially mutes in a naturalistic manner. The critics thus point to the detour through the dark woods in search of the mystery house as a traditional Christian theme that provides the dangers and evil that lurk in the dark (McDermott, 2013). The misfit as brought forth by the author as well typifies existence of guilt and despair of a fallen sinner. As such, the grandmother’s recognition of kinship in the desperate figure of the belated misfit shows the existence of redemption as she recognizes that the petty materialistic things in life do not matter. Further, her expression as she collapses to death while crossing her legs is an indication of her acceptance of the Christian grace as she lets go of her selfish nature.
Through the story, O’Connor presents the Misfit and the grandmother both as recipients of grace regardless of their existing flaws, weaknesses, and sins. According to various theologies presented through the Christian faith, humans have the ability to receive God’s salvation and grace as He freely bestows to even the evilest person in the community. By granting the misfit Grace, the grandmother lets go of her sins and accepted the grace bestowed upon her through Christianity. This is irrespective of her frequent lies to her family, manipulation tendencies, as well as her perceived tendency of judging an individuals’ goodness (O’Connor and Gavin, 2011). She lets go of her moral superiority and tries to understand the Misfit’s evil nature thus was subject to receiving the salvation of God. The grandmother’s inherent moral weaknesses are present as she consults the Misfit for a prayer regardless of the fact that she was unable to formulate a coherent prayer.
With growing tension between her and the Misfit, the grandmother changes her perception regarding the rising of Christ from the death. On the other hand, the misfit is an unrepentant murderer, and thus the two characters could be deemed to be undeserving of grace and salvation. The story is thought to focus much on violence as a means of terrifying spiritual complacency as indicated through the grandmothers’ arguments with the misfit before being shot. Particularly, other critics accept the above rationalization as the story’s key focus on the use of violent actions and the darkness that is exemplified by the woody surrounding depicts the shaking of a persons’ faith in the salvation or grace of the Lord. As brought forth by other interpretations of the tale, it is succinct that the O’Connor laid emphasis on the existing influence of medieval and classical social structures on individuals’ behaviors. The story as well glorifies the past through the grandmother who is the main character who often expressed nostalgia regarding the way things used to be done in the south. The mistakes that she makes due to her old age and memory lose are concerning as she leads her family to their ultimate demise. In spite of being murdered by the Misfit, the grandmother can accord the fugitive grace as he ends the story by stating “it is no real pleasure in life,” thus an indication that he recognizes grace though he chooses to ignore.
O’Connor, F., Gavin, M., Playaway Digital Audio., Findaway World, LLC., & Blackstone
Audio, Inc. (2011). A good man is hard to find: And other stories. Solon, Ohio: Playaway Digital Audio.
McDermott, J. A. (January 01, 2013). On First Hearing Flannery O’Connor Read “A Good Man
Is Hard to Find”. Southern Humanities Review, 47, 2, 120-145.