A Good Man Is Hard To Find

Writer and essayist, Flannery O’Connor wrote several well-known and prominent pieces of literature in her career, most popularly A Good Man Is Hard to Find. This work by O’Connor was a short story, created in 1953. While there are many different interpretations to the story, most of the analyses focus on the controversial and deeply discussed final scene. The story focuses on a grand-mother and her son’s family on a vacation to Florida, but has underlying tones of morality, spirituality and religion.

As a plot overview, the reader is introduced to a woman referred to as ‘grandmother’, along with her son, Bailey, and his family; his wife, referred to as‘the mother’, and two children, John Wesley, and June Star. The family is planning a family vacation to Florida, however the grandmother attempts to dissuade them out of fear of a suspected killer on the loose in the state. Instead, she suggests going to Tennessee, where she grew up, however none of the other characters are mildly interested. Disdain is prevalent in the story, in almost all realms. The grandmother has disdain for Georgia, Florida, and her family, as her tone of voice and dialog suggest she believes life was better in the past where people respected their elders and had manners.

The plot escalates quickly nearing the end, as the grandmother realizes that a suggestion she made to Bailey and the children of visiting a house on their trip was incorrect. The grandmother suggested they visit a house off of a dirt road which held secret passageways, but later realized that she was thinking of a home in Tennessee and not Florida. When she realizes this, she nervously jerks her foot, upsetting her cat that she took with her in a basket, and it flings itself onto Bailey as he’s driving. The family pulls over for help, and comes to meet the killer that the grandmother worried about, known as The Misfit.

Dialog between the grandmother and The Misfit is exchanged, and tones of morality and religion are prominent. The Misfit orders his two sidekicks to take Bailey and the son off and kill them, and then again in a separate trip with the mother and daughter. As this happens, The Misfit and grandmother exchanges words about Jesus and religion, as she begins to plead for her life. The most discussed and interesting portion of the story is this last scene, where an otherwise unflattering and selfish woman, or so depicted by some, tries to reason with someone who believes that there is only “meanness” in the world.

The story ends by the grandmother being shot, along with the other members of the family, and The Misfit exchanging words with one of his friends, stating that the grandmother “could have been a good woman if someone were around to shoot her every minute of her life”, arguing that he saw through her portrayal of a caring, religious person in her moments of grasping on to life. The moral ambiguity and religious notes in the dialog have been dissected and interpreted by many, and because of the varying ways readers and critics have elucidated the story, it has become a notarized and respected piece of literature.

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