“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’ Connor Essay
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’ Connor
While the concept of grace seems like the last theme in this story of murder and selfishness, it is actually represented quite frequently and as a big part of the story line. “A Good Man is hard to Find” focuses mainly on the personalities and traits of the two main characters, grandma and The Misfit. These two seem like complete opposites, which creates for a very intriguing comparison when it comes to their intelligence and capacity for grace in this short story. The Misfit displays a clear superiority in intelligence through his behavior and actions. The Misfit also has an obvious capacity for grace that exceeds the grandmother by analyzing his thoughts and conversations with the grandmother.
The readers can infer that some of the grandmother’s traits are being close-minded and selfish. She lies to her grandchildren, complains about how the present times cannot even compare to the superiority of the past, and manipulates her son. The grandmother displays no self-awareness and is not open to reality and the current world around her. During the conversation moments before the grandmother was shot, her words prove these previous points. She portrays obvious ignorance when she attempts to convince the Misfit that he would never do this and that killing a lady is wrong. It is like she knows him and knows how he thinks and clearly she does not. The grandmother believes he will do what she says just because of her values and what she thinks is right in this situation; Ignorance at its finest. While these points show the weakness of the grandmother, they also prove the superiority of the Misfits intelligence in comparison.
All along the Misfit intends to kill the family. Although there may have been moments of grace, the end result was inevitable. Because of the Misfit’s age, real-world experience, and physical build and the arms he carries, he has a clear one- up in intelligence in this situation. The grandmother is just pleading for her survival at this point, while the Misfit is in control. He bears a weapon that determines life or death in these very moments. The Misfit has a clear strategy for execution of the doomed family. First the parents and children are killed in the woods and the grandmother is saved for last. The Misfit has had to experience much more of the real world than has the family.
He has had numerous tough times and obstacles to overcome, while the grandmother and her family have lived sheltered compared to him. Now, the grandmother is placed in a very real situation and does not know how to handle it successfully which gives the Misfit a clear advantage for control. All her life, the grandmother has placed herself higher than everyone else and is now forced to do the opposite and her life depends on it. This intense sign of weakness is foreign to the grandmother and is what ultimately gets her killed when placed against someone of higher intelligence.
Capacity for grace is an ongoing theme represented in bother the Misfit and the grandmother. The Misfit shows more capacity for grace than does the grandmother. During the grandmother’s plead to keep her life, she is very consistent in her argument and stays true to her reasoning that she thinks he is a good man and that he would never kill a lady, basically putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his head. She does not back down from her beliefs and keeps trying to persuade him not to kill her, which is the only thing crossing her mind at that moment.
During her argument, she talks about Jesus and his actions and even though the Misfit puts on a tough façade, we find that later in the book, his values change from originally stating that “there is no pleasure in life but meanness,” transitioning to “there is no pleasure in life at all.” This shows a little mercy and capability of change in the Misfit that is not present in the grandmother whatsoever. These two characters were very unlikely recipients of any grace, but the Misfit showed more towards the grandmother by not shooting her instantly and changing his values drastically.
“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” shows the conflict between two extremely different characters which creates a very interesting comparison between them. The Misfit takes the lead in both intelligence and capacity for grace when put up against the grandmother. He is more educated in real world situations while she is ignorant and unaware; also the Misfit shows more willingness to change than does the grandmother from her old, close-minded ways. The Misfit is an unlikely candidate to fit these roles but his actions and thoughts prove otherwise throughout the story.