A Good Man is Hard to Find and Morality
“If you do not stand for something you believe, you will fall for anything,” Alexander Hamilton once said. In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the unnamed grandmother, usually a character full of certainty about her belief and thoughts, expresses doubt about God’s existence to The Misfit, a criminal who casts doubts on what he has not seen himself, by mumbling “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead” (pg 43). While the grandmother is overly confident in her own beliefs, the Misfit succeeds in persuading her that faith requires observation in order to stand. However, only when the grandmother faces imminent death does she finally come to the realization of salvation, a depiction of O’Conner’s belief in the epiphany of God. Through her short story, she casts doubt upon the true meaning of belief and further expands it to the universal Christian value of forgiveness. Of the two characters, The Misfit leads the unnamed grandmother to cast doubt upon her own belief.
She considers herself morally superior to others and urges the family to follow her conscience when at the beginning of the story she argues, “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that [The Misfit] aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.” (pg 30). Yet we get to glimpse a central flaw in her so called conscience when she smuggles the cat, Pitty Sing, into the car and ultimately causes the car accident leading to the encounter with The Misfit. Later on in the story during the systemic murder of The Misfit, she pleads for her own life to be spared with the reasoning of “You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?”, but never once does she mention her family’s (pg 38). The vividness of her ignorance climaxes when she “almost screamed, ‘I know you’re a good man.
‘” (pg 38). Only at the very end of the story at her realization of “Why you’re one of my babies,” is she struck with the fact that she also is flawed like everybody else (pg 43). However, it is through this arrogant and ignorant character that O’Connor breathes God’s epiphany into, brining to life the proof of unexpected forgiveness and grace even to unlikely recipients. On the other hand, The Misfit depicts a strong conviction and belief in himself that the grandmother lacks throughout the entire story. Despite the fact that he is a violent murderer, he is the one who seriously questions the meaning of life and possesses a steady belief.
Due to his self awareness and somber thoughts about life, he has even renamed himself claiming his punishment did not match his crime by saying, “I call myself The Misfit because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment” (pg 42). In fact, fundamental principles form inside him that become the very essence of roots that comprises him and makes him who he is, such as “No pleasure but meanness” (pg 43). However the grandmother, on the other hand, starts breaking apart when The Misfit is talking with her. Her moral codes evaporate once challenged by The Misfit, who has a constant moral philosophy that stands strong and does not waver. Through the conversation between them therefore, the grandmother finally realizes her weaknesses and The Misfit’s strengths. As such, the author’s depiction of The Misfit as a pensive pragmatist questions the core of morality and philosophy.
As such, both the grandmother and The Misfit are portrayed as the most unlikely two people to deserve grace by God, with the former having being shaken from the very roots of her beliefs and the latter having committed countless murders of innocent people. Yet as undeserving to be granted grace as they are, both are served grace at the very end of the story, implying that they have the potential to be saved by God. This further expands to the Christian value and belief of everybody and anybody, however unlikely and disgraceful, contains within themselves the ability to be saved. At the end of the story, when we see the grandmother exclaiming, “You’re one of my own children!”, a puff of epiphany and forgiveness seeps into the grandmother and indicates that she has been forgiven (pg 43). Although this remark seems to be almost insane in the story, it is in fact the most radical moment for the grandmother in the story.
On the other hand The Misfit is granted grace through, ironically, this conduct of murder. The very last sentence of the short story, “It’s no real pleasure in life”, points out the surprising altercation that has occurred inside The Misfit and his core values (pg 43). Although he has lived constantly as a serial killer in the past, the crucial change in his mindset suggests that killing no longer entertains him. In turn, The Misfit also possesses within him the potential to be saved, once again pointing back to the central Christian value of all people being able to be granted grace. If you firmly “stand” for something, you will “not” fall for anything.
Illustrations ofthe grandmother crumbling miserably against The Misfit’s concrete, steady beliefs depict the fundamental importance of how believing firmly in one’s faith is crucial in life. Yet indeed, a spark of clouded belief flickered back to life again inside the grandmother the moment she was murdered. Although both unlikely recipients of grace, they both possessed a steady view of looking at the world around them, which in fact is the central key that controls and determines the true recipients of grace in Christianity.