In the short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, the grandmother searches for grace and redemption in a world full of sin, racism, and death and finds it through faith. This takes her on a journey that proves hard and difficult and one that leads her to the one good man, The Lord. On the journey, she has racist thoughts, is self-indulgent, and puts her trust in financial resources and social manners. It is not until the end of her life when she finally finds redemption and grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The story is set in the 1950’s, a time when the world was beginning to change. World War II had just ended and the Civil Rights Movement had begun. The perception of the south was beginning to evolve with these times, yet, the grandmother is lost in her own version of the south. The grandmother says, “‘In my time, children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else’” (O’Connor 1146). In her time, she believes people did right by others and people treated everyone and everything fairly and respectfully. However, in her time, racial inequality was occurring, especially in the south. African-Americans were not being treated fairly or equally. The grandmother still exhibits this racism when she says, “‘Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do’” (O’Connor 1146). She herself demonstrates the problems in the old south, and she fails to acknowledge that she does. She praises her own vision of the south that she sees as enduring. Choosing to perceive impoverished black children as picturesque, fantasizing about plantation homes, and reminiscing over gentlemen who call for her hand. She does not want to escape her self-indulgence and accept the fact of the south is changing.
While she may not want to accept the fact, she does recognize the south is changing. She hints at this when saying, “‘People are certainly not nice like they used to be’” (O’Connor 1148). She is talking to Red Sammy and reflecting over the past. She does see that people are not like they used to be. This is supported by Farrell O’Gorman’s claim, “The grandmother does have a sense that the region and the modern world alike are decaying” (O’Gorman 181). The south is declining socially. The etiquettes that society once had are no longer there, and society no longer holds the religious convictions that they used to have. For O’Connor, her “work is deeply informed by Christian convictions” (O’Gorman 200). This story is an example where O’Connor’s Christian faith has influenced her writing. She portrays a world that has begun to decay because they lost who they were religiously. Sin has entered the lives of the people and the world is not like it used to be.
This sin has caused the people to place their faith in money and manners instead of in the Lord. While the grandmother sees others losing their religious convictions, she fails to see she is doing the same thing. When faced with impending death, the grandmother turns to money and manners to provide an escape instead of turning to her Christian faith. She says to the Misfit, ‘“You ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got”’ (O’Connor 1155). She pleads for the Misfit to refrain from shooting a lady. This draws on her strain of traditional southern values where a man should not mistreat, especially murder, a female. Also, she offers to pay him to not harm her. She would give all her earthly possessions to survive this encounter. However, her offer and plea are in vain. Even O’Gorman says, “Her faith in money and manners alike is carried beyond its breaking point in her encounter with the Misfit” (O’Gorman 181). When faced with death, she abandons all her religious convictions and turns to the things of the world.
While she turns to the things of the world, she becomes lost in the world. She does not know where she is. In the car, she remembers so vividly a...