By the title, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, a reader would not suspect what the story is really about. One might assume that Flannery O’Connor’s short story is about finding love perhaps, rather than moral, murders, and convicts. Contrarily, the meaning of this story is even deeper than the naked eye can reveal. Throughout Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” a manipulative setting, leads to domination over the other characters in the story; moreover, leading to symbolic animalistic attributes, fabricating a profound meaning of hypocritical aspects.
The monkey presented in the story symbolizes the animalistic nature of humans. The monkey represents the stubborn, bias, and shallow views of the people of the time period in the quote, “… a gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a chinaberry tree, chattered nearby.
The monkey sprang back into the tree and got to the highest limb as soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward him.”(O’Connor 325) The animal is chained to signify the limitations to the views the characters like the Grandmother and Red Sam believe. When someone poses animal-like characteristics, humans completely dominate their environment that our social structures have become ecosystems unto themselves. Animals learn to act exactly like their parents as they grow to adulthood; furthermore, once the animal is an adult, it has the behaviors, ideas, and motives of the parents that will never change and will pass those traits on to the next generation.
This corresponds with the Grandmother and the story, with her children and grandchildren; for example, when a person is the most dominant character in the family, the inferior ones follow behind grasping the beliefs of the dominate character.
The Grandmother’s immutable ways make her the dominant character in the allegory. It is written in the story, “..The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves..
The children’s mother still had on slacks and still her head tied in a green kerchief, but the
grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat.. a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print.. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady…” (O’Connor 323) It makes the reader wonder that, why was she dressed so dressy for a prolonged drive in a cramped car? For one, this statement is also an example of foreshadowing. Later on in the story, when she is held at gun point, she constantly recites “I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady!” Ironically, she got what she wanted because when people find her dead, she will be dressed like a lady. The outfit she is wearing also tells about her demeanor. The references to the navy, for example navy blue hat, means that she was strong and domineering like the navy.
Later on in the story, unfortunately leading to their demise, she uses her domineering tactics to get where she wants to go using the children’s curiosity. “.. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing.
‘There was a secret panel in this house,’ she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, ‘and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found’…” (O’Connor 327) The Grandmother purposely says something false to ensure the children will cajole their dad into going there. She knew this was a lie and she knew that she was not going to talk Bailey into it single-handily.
The only way possible was to manipulate the children through the use of their excitement and curiosity to dominate over her son. The grandmother manipulates all of the characters except the Misfit who turns the tables on the grandmother in the end. She tries to make the convict feel better about himself by conveying, “‘Yes, it’s a beautiful day,” said the grandmother. ‘Listen,’ she said, ‘you shouldn’t call yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.’” (O’Connor 330) The Grandmother knows of the crimes this man has committed. She thinks she can manipulate him the way she does Bailey but the man can sense this all along.
The Grandmother uses manipulation by saying that the Misfit is a good man so he can believe that he is a good man deep down inside and spare the lives of the family. In addition, the grandmother has a hypocritical standpoint, which makes using religion as a manipulation tool goes completely wrong. She questions her faith in the quote, “ ‘Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,’ the old lady mumbled…” (O’Connor 334) The grandmother is humbled as she sees that she has lost the fight. She is now inferior to the Misfit unlike in the beginning, where she stood before him; now she sits faintly on the ground looking up to the convict.
The Grandmother could be questioning her faith as if saying “How could God do this to me?” or the line could be indicating that she did not have very much faith at all. At this point in the short story; it seems as if the Misfit has more faith than she does. She tries to regain her dominance in the quote, “ ‘Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!’ She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.
The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.” (O’Connor 334) It is as if he has encountered something very threatening. It is hypocritical because a snake is usually associated with evil or “enemy of man” like the biblical story of Adam and Eve. It symbolizes how genuine good appears to genuine evil.
To conclude, this story has so many points that you have to examine in between the lines. Basically, the story is about a woman with a domineering personality that has to die to be brought back down to size. The writer conveys this meaning through the use of symbolism, domination, manipulation, and hypercriticism.