Ravi B. Lucas
April 18, 2000
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
The story of A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery OConnor has been debated and analyzed so much because it can be interpreted one thousand different ways. OConnors characters are usually searching for an elusive salvation, and her stories illustrate her views on the human condition. Many spiritual themes weave their way through her work, but never seem to achieve their intended ends. In this story, groups of criminals massacre an entire family while their ringleader discusses theology with the family’s grandmother, only a hundred feet away.
The source of the misinterpretation of the storys crux emerges from two key characters that OConnor weaved together: the Grandmother, and the Misfit. These two are so complex because they stand for many different things. The most reasonable interpretation of these two characters is that they represent OConnors view on the evil in society.
The story begins with the typical family challenged by their grandmother who does not want to take the vacation to Florida. She has read about a crazed killer by the name of the Misfit who is on the run heading for Florida. Unfortunately, she is ignored by ever member of the family except for the little girl June Star who has come to read her grandmother like a book.
Ironically, the morning of the trip the grandmother is dressed in her best Sunday clothes and the first one in the car ready to travel as June Star predicted she would be. The grandmother’s dress is very nice for a trip she was horrified to take only a day earlier. The grandmother festooned in white gloves, a navy blue dress, and a matching hat, only for the sole purpose of being recognized as a woman in case someone saw her dead on the highway. This logic may seem absurd to anyone who is unfamiliar with aged aristocratic southern culture. Southerners of a high class would dress in their fine clothes when they traveled on vacations, especially ladies. The reader is clued into the grandmother’s shallow thoughts of death.
In the grandmother’s mind, her clothing preparations prevent any doubts about her status as a fine lady. However, the Misfit later points out, There never was a body that gave the undertaker a tip. The grandmother’s superficial readiness for death is a bleak characteristic and revealed when she encounters the Misfit. She shows herself to be the least prepared for death when she is left alone with him.
As the trip progresses, the children reveal themselves as brats, mainly out of O’Connor’s desire to illustrate the lost admiration for the familys respect for their grandmother. The family lost their respect for their grandmother only because she proposed a different life style.
She was part of a Southern aristocratic culture where people behaved much more conservatively. Her beliefs, attitudes, and morals were from another time where people respected what older people had to say, and what they stood for. Naturally, she was never reluctant to share her opinion on matters, and was a little forceful about sharing her thoughts. She made sure to watch over her son, and kept a grip on what he did- even as a grown man. She refused to retire and become a composed old woman. She wanted to stay involved in the familys matters, and show that she was still an significant person with the knowledge that came with her age.
Consequently, with all her bickering the family began to hold a grudge against her. The Grandmother lacked comprehension, and did not know that she became annoying, but she was not spitefully bothersome.
The reader should notice when the family passes by a cotton field, five or six graves are exposed, and conceivably, they foreshadow the near future. Some interesting dialogue takes place when John Wesley asks, Where’s the plantation, and the grandmother replies, Gone with the Wind. This is perhaps another attempt by O’Connor to illustrate the breakdown of the familys absence of respect and reverence for the grandmothers old life.
The family ‘s encounter with Red Sammy Butts serves as another outlet for O’Connor to express how trust and .