A Look at Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find Essay”
By Amy Carr
In the short story A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor uses many different tactics to accurately portray the south in the 1950’s. O’Connor uses her style, themes, and point of view to tell a story of a family outing gone wrong. The story involves a grandmother, her only son and his wife, and their two bratty children, June Star and John Wesley. On their way to Florida, the grandmother convinces the family to detour to see an old house, and while heading towards their destination, the car overturns. The much-feared criminal, The Misfit, an escaped murderer, encounters the family, and offers to help them.
The Grandmother immediately notices the man as The Misfit, and verbally acknowledges that fact. “‘You’re The Misfit!’ she said. “I recognized you at once!’” (p. 687) The Misfit has the husband and son killed relatively quickly, and even after much conversation and pleading, he kills the rest of the family.
A Good Man is Hard to Find includes a lot of character development, a unique point of view, and the use of foreshadowing. O’Connor does this through her characters, setting, and details in the story.
The grandmother is a classic old southern woman, who is eccentric and who may come off as a racist. However, the woman may not be racist, but rather just naive and too set in her ways to deal with the changes present at the time. As the grandmother said, “Oh look at that cute little pickaninny! … Wouldn’t that make a picture now?” (p. 681) When O’Connor was writing she might not have meant to show that the grandmother was a racist, but rather just that she was out of tune with the rest of the world. The grandmother was also portrayed as Christian, one who was displeased with others who did not act in a Christian manner, and with the society as a whole. She discusses this with Red Sammy, a restaurant owner and war veteran.
Red Sammy said “Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.” (p.683)
O’Connor often shows through the story the degeneration of the nuclear family. She does this not only through the incident at Red Sammys, but also through the child characters, John Wesley and June Star.
The father, Bailey, tends to ignore the grandmother, and has failed to teach his children respect and manners.
“The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. Jon Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother’s shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what they wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.”(p. 684)
The children were so obnoxious and had so little regard for the their elders or themselves, that even in the event of the accident, the children were only excited, and rather disappointed with the outcome.
“‘We’ve had an accident!’ the children screamed in a frenzy of delight. ‘But nobody’s killed,’ June Star said with disappointment, as the grandmother limped out of the car.” (p. 686)
In addition to the demise of the nuclear family, O’Connor also shows the elimination of morals, religion, and kindness within people. The grandmother is religious only when she needs to be and it’s convenient. This becomes evident when they encounter The Misfit.
The grandmother uses her religion as a reason to plead for her life with The Misfit, and The Misfit uses her religion as a reason to kill.
“She the grandmother finally found herself saying ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.” (p. 690) This statement struck The Misfit and he took the statement as a reason to join in on a discussion. “Jesus threw everything off balance. It was the same case .