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Foreshadowing Signals the Conclusion in a Good Man Is Hard to Find

By mgd1310 Mar 18, 2011 1177 Words
In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor writes into her short story elements and symbolic clues that signal the family’s untimely death at the hands of the Misfit. Using a third-person limited omniscience point of view with the narration coming from the single perspective of the grandmother, O’Connor wastes no time in her foreshadowing the tragic ending that awaits the family. In fact, the first instance can be found in the opening paragraph of the story. The story begins with the grandmother feeling uneasy about an upcoming road trip that she is about to take with her family from their home in Georgia to a destination in Florida. She tries in vain to convince her son, Bailey to reconsider the trip by making him aware of risks she has found in the newspaper. “Here this fellow that calls himself the Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen…and read what it says he did with these people…I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it” (O’Connor p.445). This passage is important because it is a hint about the man who will ultimately be responsible for murdering the family. Unable to change her son’s mind, the following morning, the family prepares to leave on their trip and the grandmother’s attire is the next instance of foreshadowing. “The grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat…and a navy blue dress with small white dots in the print...in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead body on the highway would know at once she was a lady” (O’Conner p.446). It seems morbid that the grandmother has chosen her outfit with the thought in mind of how she would look if she was found dead on the side of the road. The inclusion of the grandmother’s line of thinking here foreshadows her death. As the family continues on their trip, O’Connor continues to give the reader clues on the tragic outcome. While driving down the highway, the family “passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it” (O’Conner p.446). The symbol of a cemetery suggests the family’s death. The grandmother’s reaction reinforces this point. “Look at the graveyard…that was the old family burying ground” (O’Conner p.446). Another significant fact is that the number of graves was identical to the size of the family. For the first time in the story, O’Connor signals that the entire clan is at risk. When the family stops for lunch, the grandmother again mentions the Misfit, this time to the wife of Red Sam, the proprietor of the restaurant. The grandmother asks, “Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that’s escaped?” (O’Conner p.448). Red Sam’s wife responses, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t attack this place right here” (O’Conner p.448). This hints that an attack by the Misfit is looming. After finishing their lunch, the family continues on their way. “Outside of Toombsboro [the grandmother]…recalled an old plantation that she visited in this neighborhood when she was a young lady” (O’Conner p.448). Two pieces of information foreshadow the upcoming tragedy in this sentence. First, the name of the town, Toomsboro contains the word “tomb” and it can be interpreted that the family is moving closer to death. Second, the grandmother’s life is flashing before her which often is said to occur prior to dying. Her recollection of this old plantation serves as the motive for the family to stray from their plan when the grandmother suggests that they locate the place from her memory. Excited by their grandmother’s description of the house, the children beg and plea with their father to proceed down a dirt road in search of it. Reluctantly, he agrees but not before giving the family an ultimatum, “this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time” (O’Conner p.447). In an ironic twist, this is in fact the family’s “one and only” stop before falling into the clutches of the Misfit and his gang. While driving down the dirt road, the family’s car “turned over once and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road” (O’Conner p.450). The site of the accident is another instance of foreshadowing. “The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep” (O’Conner p.450). The way the scene is described, the family is below the road and in a ditch which can be seen as a symbol for being at the bottom of a grave. Also, the description of the woods creates a sense of foreboding and peril for the family. This is confirmed later when the entire family except the grandmother is taken into the woods and murdered. Shortly after the accident that has stranded the family in a ditch; another car is seen in the distance. What seemed like a godsend at first in the form of potential rescuers quickly evaporates away once the car comes into focus. “It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile” (O’Conner p.450). This type of vehicle is commonly used to transport bodies during funerals and can be interpreted as symbolizing death on the horizon for the family. This is realized further when the grandmother identifies the Misfit when he exits the vehicle and approaches the family. Near the end of the story, once the grandmother is the only remaining survivor, she pleads for her life, “I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady…I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!” (O’Conner p.454). When the Misfit responds, the final instance of foreshadowing is show and there is no doubt that the grandmother will be joining her family in death. The Misfit replies, “Lady…there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip” (O’Conner p.454). This informs the reader that her offer of money is useless because the Misfit is going to kill the grandmother after which he will be free to take her money off her dead body. In conclusion, O’Connor’s use of descriptive elements and symbolic clues foreshadows the tragic ending in the story. There are hints of the story’s resolution that is apparent to even a casual reader. However, when the story is examined and analyzed with a critical eye, it is clear that information throughout signals the catastrophic conclusion.

Works Cited
O'Connor, Flannery. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2008. 445-55. Print.

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