A Good Man is Hard to Find
In Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A good man is hard to find”, it portrays a
simple southern American family taking a vacation to Florida while traveling from
Georgia. I noticed that the grandmother foreshadows the upcoming event through
hypothetical questions and arguments with her son Bailey. She responds arguably in
favor for visiting Tennessee instead of Florida and the Grandmother said, “I wouldn’t
take my children any direction with a criminal like that a loose in it, I couldn’t answer to
my conscience if I did” (1), followed by, “And what would you do if this fellow, The
Misfit, caught you” (5)? I believe the Grandmother is sympathetic but selfish and
imposes her will a little too much, which is shown by Bailey’s frustration at the end of
the story. Bailey is the head of the household and very determined to reach their
destination. But the character I gravitated toward most was “The Misfit”, because he is
very calm, collected, cordial in manner and very progressive in getting what he wants;
conceivably a smooth criminal.
Along the journey the family stops at Red Sammy’s barbecue restaurant where an
ironic conversation takes place between the Grandmother and Red Sammy, and they
discuss the difficulty of finding a “good man”, which is also the plain statement of the
theme. They discuss the awfulness of today’s world, while secretly congratulating each
other by being a so called “Good” person. Where is a good man to be found? Nowhere,
is the answer but in a way it would seem the Misfit is the closest in the story. The family
seems to be a little tense on this vacation but are still in good spirits as they journey
through Georgia, where the Grandmother selfishly uses her Grandchildren against Bailey
for her own egotistical needs. By convincing the children that a house she used to visit as
a child was in close proximity and had a secret panel that kept one family’s fortune.
Because she knew if the children did not want to go and it was just for her, bailey
would not take her there. So with the children on her side they whine long enough to get
Grandmothers way. Out numbered, Bailey agrees to go see the house.
Over rough terrain on an off beaten path the Grandmother spasms over her
mistake in location, causing the family accident. The family was wounded and stranded
but nonetheless alive. The Misfit enters on the scene of the family’s accident in a car that
looks like a hearse; which to me is the first clue of a bad predicament, but O’connor has
the ability of transforming elements of human evil into a more tolerable aspect of lunacy.
O’connor describes him looking like a sinister red-neck who might have some sort of
scholarly value. He exudes experience with his calm and polite southern hospitality as he
shares a conversation with the Grandmother while directing the other family members to
their death. The Misfit knows the fate of the family from the beginning because he is
exhausted with his own experience of the world, and of religion, and clearly wants to be
successful in achieving his freedom by any means necessary.
To the Misfit, religion was a vague spiritual concept to life that he did not
understand, because of his tormenting thoughts about Christ raising the dead, “I wish I
had of been there. It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had been there I would of
known” (136), he said. If only he could have been there then he could have believed. He
continues, with what I found to be an odd statement, Jesus “thown everything off
balance”(130). I’m not entirely sure the meaning of this other than his haunting doubt of
ever living a normal life. Perhaps he is trying to say, that because Jesus never committed
a crime and died for our sins that being a criminal is forgivable in god’s eyes, maybe
repenting or confession is to easy of a way out for anyone trying to clear their conscience.
The Grandmother is the last to die but before her death she uses religion as an
excuse for her selfishness, which the intelligent Misfit translated as an insult, “Jesus,
you’ve got blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady”, followed by, “Pray, pray. If you
would pray Jesus would help you” (118). The Misfit responds, “I don’t want no hep. I’m
doing all right by myself. I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you
can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going
to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it” (121). This goes back to the
idea that time is the best healer because this incident was not his first crime or his last , so
he must be progressive enough to come to terms with his previous crimes or force
himself to forget them altogether.
I feel that Flannary O’Connors short story, “A good man is hard to find”, could be
considered a uniquely, realistic fictional story that I enjoyed and would recommend to
our modern day misfits who are much like the whiny children in the story.