The short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” was initially published in 1953, following Flannery O’Connor’s permanent relocation to her mother’s dairy farm in Andalusia. In summary, the book is a short story revolving around a Georgia family that has got travel plans to move from Georgia to Florida for a holiday. The grandmother wants to visit relatives in Tennessee and tries to persuade the family to instead go to Tennessee. She doesn’t reveal her real motives but instead recourses to ruse.
She claims that a criminal referred to as The Misfit had escaped prison and is believed to be headed for Florida. Her entire family, including her son Bailey, takes her statement in disdain and the family heads to Florida. This paper offers an analysis of this short story. It uses an external source cliffsnotes.com: a source that summarizes and analyzes the book. The paper investigates the themes of religion, selfishness, and goodness to show how the author has used the themes to advance the story and in it we can see conflict as a literary device.
Various critics have highlighted local and regional newspapers’ impact on Flannery’s fiction. The misfit, the compulsive murderer who slays a whole family in the book, was ostensibly made-up from newspaper narrations of two criminals who had in the 1950s terrorized the Atlanta region. The reader can deduce that how Flannery treats his characters reinforces her perception of man as a fallen being. In a nutshell, the story portrays the devastation of a family that is altogether too normal by three fled convicts. The story’s thematic climax encompasses a proposal of grace and the acceptance of the gift by the grandmother due to her epiphany experiences just before her death. The events leading to the climax nonetheless generate much of the story’s interest.
The theme of religion is evident in how the book portrays the influence of Christ on the lives of a seemingly desperate character: A grandmother joining the family of her son on tour to Florida. Accompanying the grandmother is her daughter-in-law, her smuggled cat, two cold children and a baby. In the discussion amongst the grandmother and the misfit during the murder of the grandmother’s family. The misfit asserts, “Jesus shown everything off balance”(O’Connor, page 12). This illustrates the theme of religion as the misfit from this assertion recognizes Jesus is powerful.
Selfishness is another theme evident in Flannery’s book: the grandmother’s behavior depicts her selfish desires. She demonstrates impunity as she deliberately and unapologetically manipulates her family to suit her purposes. She is intentional in the manipulation of her son Bailer regarding Pity Sing, her cat and smuggled her inside the car below her which is a form of conflict, “big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus,” although Bailey has explicitly prohibited the cat from sharing a motel room with them (O’Connor, page 2). Later Pity Sing is responsible for the entire family’s death after the car accident and the resultant meeting with The Misfit.
The downfall of the family is caused by the grandmothers failing memory and her inflated sense of arrogance and self. When the grandmother wakes up in the car, she claims that she remembers a plantation house from her youthful years. Despite being privy to the fact that Bailey, her son, “would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house…” (O’Connor,page 6). She still wants to see the plantation to fulfill her selfish desires.
Goodness is reflected in the grandmother; her coordinated and proper travelling outfit demonstrates her definition of goodness. Flannery writes, “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor, page 3). The grandmother is obsessed with her appearance. In the supposed accident, she worries not of her death or that of her family members but about strangers’ opinions of her. She persists in clinging to superficial goodness definitions while pleading with the misfit. She pleads with him not to shoot, as murdering someone is a question of lack of etiquette (O’Connor). The fact that she values etiquette reflects the goodness in her character.
In conclusion, Flannery O’Connor’s Short story: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” encompasses multiple elements which depict the three themes: religion, selfishness and goodness (O’Connor). By use of the external source cliffsnotes.com, the paper is able to analyze the text to offer insights of how the author has brought out these themes. Through analysis of the book and by the help of the external source, this text has been able to fulfill the purpose of presenting these themes.
Flannery’s works have always had a person that has a great sense of strong confidence and who feels like their conduct cannot be questioned. These persons are brought to points in their lives that they are in a crisis and events destroys their self-confidence or alternatively they get a moment of grace resulting to their re-evaluating their past and see the world in a new spiritual light. In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” the grandmother is archetypical of this character. Full with self-confidence this can result to shortcomings in a thematic analysis as it may failing to capture shortcomings of the character and thus focusing more on positive aspects.
O’Connor, Flannery. A good man is hard to find. Gothic Digital Series, 1953.