A Good Man Really Is Hard to Find Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the story of a family’s vacation tragically ended by The Misfit and his gang. On the way to their vacation spot in Florida, the Grandmother remembers a plantation in Georgia she used to visit when she was a young lady and desperately wants to see it. She tells her son, Bailey, what road it is on and everyone is excited to see it. After a while, the grandmother realizes that she was wrong about where the plantation was and becomes so upset at herself that she knocks things over in the car which causes a car accident.
A passing car stops to help the family but the Grandmother realizes that one of the men is a murderer, nicknamed, The Misfit. While one of the men with the Misfit brings small groups of the family in the forest to be killed, the Misfit and the Grandmother have a conversation about what it means to be a good person. The Grandmother is the main character of the story. She thinks of herself as morally superior to everyone around her just for the fact that she is a lady. In reality, the Grandmother is racist, dishonest, selfish, and quick to judge.
Being a lady is the only thing she has going for her and the one and only trait that she is displays proudly. Being seen as a lady is the most important thing to her. “Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the Highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Conner 2). Even when facing the Misfit, about to die, the Grandmother relies on her being a lady to save her.
She continually pleads “You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you” (8)? She mistakenly believes that because the Misfit is a “good man” his conscience wouldn’t allow him to shoot a lady. Throughout the story, the Grandmother is nostalgic, continually remembering and discussing the good times where everybody was trustworthy and respectful. She thinks that a good man was easier to find long ago. However, she has a skewed vision of what a good man is. She decides that Red Sammy is a good man because he was gullible enough to let some men take advantage of him.
He states that he trusted them because they had a Chrysler and looked alright. Red Sammy, like the Grandmother, remembers the good old days and makes the momentous statement that “A good man is hard to find” (5). This shows that he is similar to the Grandmother, that he considers himself a good man just like she considers herself a good woman because she is a lady. She also tells the Misfit that he is a good man, partly trying to save her own life and partly because he looked like he came from a good family. In the Grandmother’s mind, he was a good man as long as he didn’t have common blood.
After the Grandmother recognizes the Misfit to be a murderer, she immediately starts begging for her life. All while she is doing this, the Misfit explains to her about his good upbringing with his good parents and great life. He is perfectly polite and apologetic to the ladies about his lack of shirt and goes on to explain how he became the misfit. He was accused of a crime that he has no memory of committing. They accused him of killing his father when he knew for sure that he hadn’t. O’Conner is making a parallel between the Misfit and Jesus. Both of them were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit.
While the Misfit is definitely not sinless, like Jesus, he knows his morals and sticks to them. Towards the end of the story, it seems that the Misfit may have found redemption with his faith. The grandchildren in the story are obnoxious and terrible. They represent the new generation of children. They have absolutely no respect for their elders. In the beginning of the story, when the grandson, John Wesley, asks the Grandmother why she doesn’t just stay home, the granddaughter, June Star, states “She wouldn’t stay at home for a million bucks, afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go” (1).
Also at Red Sammy’s, when Sammy’s wife was complimenting June on her dancing and telling her how cute she was, June talked to her as if she were underserving of her attention. Another example is when the Misfit tells one of his men to take June and her mother into the forest, June says “I don’t want to hold hands with him, he reminds me of a pig. ” During the road trip, the two are the typical children on road trips, bored and obnoxious. As soon as the Grandmother mentions the plantation with a secret hiding place full of treasure, the two children start chanting and screaming and begging their parents to take them there.
Finally, the father gives up forcing them to shut up. This shows that the parenting in this family wasn’t the best. The reason why the children are so spoiled and obnoxious is because the parents give up on the fight to keep the peace. A way O’Conner comments on today’s youth is how the children responded to the car crash. They were absolutely delighted that they had been in a car accident and were disappointed when they saw that nobody had died. This shows how today’s youth is so desensitized to violence that they welcome it.
Towards the end of the story, when the rest of the family has been killed, The Misfit and the Grandmother discuss whether or not Jesus rose from the grave. The Misfit exclaims that it’s not right that he wasn’t there to see it because if he had been there, he would know and wouldn’t be the way he is. Right then, in his vulnerable state, the Grandmother’s mind clears and she realizes that the Misfit is just like her. She exclaims, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children” (12)! Both the Misfit and the Grandmother have a moment of redemption which is followed by the Misfit shooting the Grandmother repeatedly.