“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor opens with a scene of a grandmother in the kitchen with her son, Bailey, and his family, which consists of a wife who wears slacks and a kerchief around her hair while she feeds a young baby as well as two children; a young boy and girl named John Wesley (which oddly enough is the name of the founder of the Methodist religion) and June Star. The family is preparing to go to Florida on vacation but the grandmother is insistent that they go to Tennessee instead. She is ignored by the family and no one seems to value her opinion. It is clear that she is trying to weasel her way into getting her wish but none of them are falling for it.
The grandmother mentions that there is a fugitive on the loose called the Misfit and that they might run into him if they go to Florida but again, this line of reasoning has no effect on them. They tell her she just shouldn’t go if she doesn’t want to go to Florida but they all know that she wouldn’t miss a trip for the world. “The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it” (12). It is becoming clear already that this grandmother is not only manipulative and a little child-like, she is also rather high maintenance. This becomes more clear as the plot of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” further unravels. For her travels, for instance, she is wearing white cotton gloves, a fancy hat, and a dress with fake flowers all over it whereas in contrast, her daughter-in-law is wearing the same slacks and still has her hair tied up.
The grandmother sits in the back seat between the two older children while the baby is up front on the mother’s lap (isn’t that a sign of the times?). The two children prattle on about how Georgia is a boring state, even as they pass by Stone Mountain and the red and purple rocks. The grandmother tells them about Tennessee, but according to young John Wesley, “Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground” (13). The grandmother is appalled by this statement and begins talking about how children were more respectful of their home states. Just then, they pass by a little black boy standing by the road with no pants on.
The children remark on the fact that he isn’t wearing pants and the grandmother says in one of the important quotes from “A Good Man is Hard to Find” oh, “look at the cute little pickaninny!... Wouldn’t that make a picture now?” (13) and talks about how if she was a painter she would have painted that scene. If the reader wasn’t getting the drift before, it is now abundantly clear that this grandmother comes from the Old South and revels in all things “southern charm” like romanticizing negroes in the fields and the “glory” days of the plantation south. This all leads her into a story about her life as a southern belle on a plantation when a suitor used to bring her watermelons with his initials carved into them, which were E.A.T. She says that one day a (insert offensive word for African-Americans here) came along, saw the initials, and thought it meant he was supposed to eat it. No one but John Wesley thought this was a very funny story.
The family comes to a barbeque restaurant called The Tower, which is run by a man named Red Sammy. While the family is eating he talks with the grandmother about how “a good man is hard to find” and how no one can be trusted any longer. The Misfit is mentioned again along with countless other reasons why no one was trustworthy. The grandmother said to Red Sammy that in her opinion, “Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was exactly right” (17) which was the nice, polite way for Red Sammy to tell her to drop the subject.
They get back...
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