“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner reflects the Christian belief that even the most unlikely of people can be recipients of God’s grace. The grandmother and the Misfit, both “bad” in their own ways, are each unlikely and undeserving recipients of grace. According to Christian theology, humans are granted salvation through God’s grace, which can be bestowed upon to even the most unlikely.
The grandmother’s and the Misfit’s moral codes they live by that affect their actions, decisions and perceptions. The term “moral” doesn’t necessarily mean good, but is simply the way people choose to live their lives. At first it seems as if it is the Misfit who lacks guidance as he continuously murders people. It is the grandmother whose moral code is weak and inconsistent. She has built her morals solely on what she believes make people “good.” She pays a great amount of attention in being a lady, repeatedly deceives her family, and lacks a clear standpoint on the world around her. She boasts about her love for Christianity, but does not seem to be able to pray when she finds herself in crisis. She even begins to question the power and divinity of Jesus. It is clear the grandmother is not sincere and aware of her actions. The Misfit has a strong and consistent moral code. The Misfit believes that the punishments he received from his experience of being a convicted criminal were always disproportional to his crime, and the crime doesn’t even matter at the end.
He also shows a genuine curiosity about religion. The grandmother accepts faith unquestioningly while the Misfit challenges these beliefs and thinks deeply on how he should follow them or not. The Misfit has chosen to live under his assumption that religion is pointless and goes with his own belief “No pleasure but meanness.” (O’Conner 941). The Misfit only wishes he was present to see Jesus rise from the dead so he could know the events were factual. It is obvious the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” lies to her grandchildren, manipulates her son, and makes several remarks as to why the past times have superiority to the present. She believes she is morally superior to those younger than her. She also believes she has the right to judge the goodness of others and tell them how to live their lives. The grandmother seems quite oblivious to reality as she heads the family to somewhere completely different than where she thought they were. The tragic wreck was all due to the grandmother’s ignorance. Towards the final moments of her life, she instructs the Misfit to pray, despite the fact she lacks the sincere qualities herself necessary to form a prayer. As she grows afraid of what will happen to her, she agrees with the Misfit and changes her mind about Jesus rising from the dead.
Her doing so reflects she is confused and unsure of her beliefs making her a very unlikely recipient of grace. The Misfit is an unrepentant murderer who finds no pleasure in anything but meanness. He shows no remorse for his actions. The Misfit was aware of Jesus being crucified, but felt that he would have had to see it to believe it for sure. Both characters show habitual sins and ultimately are each undeserving recipients of grace. Even people like the grandmother and the Misfit have potential to be saved by God, according to Christian Theology. The grandmother experiences a moment of grace after the Misfit’s wish to know for sure what Jesus did and didn’t do. Her head clears momentarily and she says “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (O’Conner 948). This suggests that the grandmother is realizing that they both are of the same kind. Given the circumstances, her comment seems pretty insane, but this is the grandmother’s clearest moment in the story. She shows compassion which implies that God has granted her grace just before she is shot by the Misfit.
The Misfit too, is open to grace at this moment. He claims earlier in the story there was “no pleasure but meanness” in life, and now denies there is any pleasure in life at all after killing the grandmother. All his killings have quit giving him happiness, suggesting that he, too, may foster the possibility to change. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” has a strong, somewhat harsh portrayal of religion. The characters in this story are both awakened and their faith is altered. The Christian idea of moments of grace in this story apply to real life. It is believed among many Christian followers that God’s grace is very powerful, unlike any other human could give to another. Most people misunderstand this and think that blessings are granted upon those who do good works and punishments through bad works.
The use of grace has nothing to do with any kinds of works, which is where most people are mistaken. Rather, the principle to the Christian theology of grace is recognized in the bible by Solomon. He said it is vain to judge God on matters of good or bad works. God can surely do as he pleases and His ways are opposite of man’s ways. Solomon says: “There is vanity that is done under the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: I said that this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:14)
This quote suggests that despite the actions one may do, it is up to the grace of God that determines what that person deserves or does not deserve. The use of grace is all part of God’s plan for humans. No matter how many men judge a person, it is only God’s judgment that determines who receives grace. The grandmother and Misfit have been awarded the positive aspects of grace, which is not dependent on works of any kind. According to Christian theology, humans are commanded to be righteous and not evil. It says in the bible that God loves his creations so intensely he gave his only son to die for all human sins, which was a big question mark for the Misfit. If only he had known for sure maybe he would have never committed the immoral crimes he did. If the Misfit would have only known that according to Christian theology, all humans are destined by God’s divine grace no matter what deeds that have been done on earth, he would have made wiser decisions. If only the grandmother had been shot every day all of her life, according to the Misfit, would she have been a better lady.
When thinking of Christian theology, one would agree it just pertains to religion and God. Theology is the study of religion, and God’s relation to the world. Theology is based upon the Old and New Testament in the Bible, as well as historic traditions practiced by Christians. It has been practiced for thousands of years. People have always tried to make justifications to argue, examine, clarify, defend or promote Christianity. The Misfit seems to know most aspects when it comes to the Christian religion, as he talks about all of Christ’s works in the story. The way he viewed Christian beliefs was all an outcome on how he lived his life. “Our concepts about the divine inform our lives more deeply than most people can trace. Whether God is viewed as distant or near, as gracious or capricious, as concerned or apathetic, the conclusions we reach—whether the result of careful reflection or negligent assumptions—guide our lives.” (Kapic 1) The way people live their lives depends on an individuals’ belief about theology and the way God relates to the world. It is the beliefs people choose to accept that ultimately guides everyday lives.
Whether people choose to accept or deny that there is a God, it is all based on individual experiences and beliefs. The grandmother seemed to have thought she knew all about Christianity, but judging by her actions, it is clear she did not genuinely live righteously. There is no factual evidence that Jesus is real, but many have come to receive grace in their final moments, as shown in “A Good Man.” Believers of Christian faith are thought out to be hypocritical and this stereotype fits the grandmother’s character in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Just like the grandmother and Misfit in the story, it is grace that enabled them to come to Christ sincerely.
The final lines in the story depict both the grandmother’s and Misfit’s realizations as if they have received answers to all questions about life. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” reflects the Christian theology of grace. The grace of God is a gift, and if willing to accept it, even when undeserving, humans can be granted salvation like the grandmother was. The grace of God has been shown not to bestow upon the mere form of actions, but onto ones who are open to Christ, according to “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”
New King James Version. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982. Print.
Kapic, Kelly M. A Little Book for New Theologians. InterVarsity Press, 2012. Print. O’Conner, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” The Writer’s Presence. Bedford/St. Martin’s; Fourth Edition, 2003. 931-943. Print.
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