“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor Essay
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor is about a family from Georgia who are murdered on a road trip to Florida. It begins with the grandmother complaining to her son Bailey that she would rather go to Tennessee for vacation and not Florida. She tells him about an escaped murderer who is going to Florida named the Misfit in hopes to change his mind. The day of the trip the grandmother is dressed in her best and prepared to die as a lady if something should happen to them on the way. They stop at a barbecue restaurant for lunch, where the Grandmother talks with the owner Red Sammy about the Misfit and how hard it is to find a good man. Back in the car the grandmother talks about a house she saw when she was young, lying saying that the house has secret passages which makes the children want to see it more. They begin to jump and kick the back of the seat in front of them until the father agrees. When they get on an old abandoned road the grandmother realizes that the house is in Tennessee. The grandmother gets flustered and scares her cat which jumped up on Baily, causing him lose control of the car and it flip and land in a ditch. The adults are in shock and the kids are excited as if the accident was an adventure to them.
As the family sit and wait for help a car comes and three men step out. One the grandmother recognizes at the Misfit. The Misfit tells them he wished she hadn’t recognized him implying that he would not have killed them if she did not. Starting with the father and son the other two guys takes all of the family except the grandmother into the woods and kills them. The grandmother pleads for her life as she hears the gunshots and tries to convince the Misfit that he is a good man, and for him to pray. The Misfit goes into a rant telling the grandmother all about him his past and that he was convicted for a crime he did not commit. After all of her family is killed the grandmother is sitting there her head becomes clear and she says “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children” and she touched him. He shoots her three times in the chest and said “She would have been a good woman, if it has been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life”. In this analysis I will be comparing traits from the grandmother and the Misfit to find out who has more morals.
Is it the grandmother or the Misfit? The first trait of both Characters is the use of religion. The Grandmother cries out for Jesus telling the Misfit” You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not shoot a lady!” She tells him he is a good man over and over again hoping it might convince him that in fact he is a good man and won’t kill her. The Misfit has more of a religious background than the grandmother. He was called a prophet gone wrong. He was formerly a gospel singer. He compares himself with Jesus when he said “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with him except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me”. He told the grandmother “Jesus was the only one that ever raised the dead, and he shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If he did what he said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow him, and if he didn’t then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can- by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meaness to him. No Pleasure in meanness”.
The second trait of both Characters is morals. The grandmother considers herself morally superior to others by virtue of her being a “lady,” and she freely and frequently passes judgment on others. She claims that her conscience is a guiding force in her life, such as when she tells Bailey that her conscience wouldn’t allow her to take the children in the same direction as the Misfit. She criticizes the children’s mother for not traveling to a place that would allow the children to “be broad,” and she compares the mother’s face to a cabbage. She rebukes John Wesley for not having more respect for Georgia, his home state. She also takes any opportunity to judge the lack of goodness in people in the world today.
During all this, she proudly wears her carefully selected dress and hat, certain that being a lady is the most important virtue of all, one that she alone harbors. The grandmother never turns her critical eye on herself to inspect her own hypocrisy, dishonesty, and selfishness. For example, the conscience the grandmother invokes at the beginning of the story is conveniently silent when she sneaks Pitty Sing into the car, lies to the children about the secret panel, and opts not to reveal that she made a mistake about the location of the house.
When the Misfit murders the family, the grandmother never once begs him to spare her children or grandchildren. She does, however, plead for her own life because she can’t imagine the Misfit wanting to kill a lady. She seems certain that he’ll recognize and respect her moral code, as though it will mean something to him despite his criminal ways. She tries to draw him into her world by assuring him that he’s a good man, but even though he agrees with her assessment of him, he doesn’t see this as a reason to spare her. Only when the grandmother is facing death, in her final moments alone with the Misfit, does she understand where she has gone wrong in her life. Instead of being superior, she realizes, she is flawed like everyone else. When she tells the Misfit that he is “one of her own children,” she is showing that she has found the ability to see others with compassion and understanding. This is a moment of realization, one that is immediately followed by her death.
The Misfit seems an unlikely source to look to for spiritual or moral guidance, but he demonstrates a deep conviction that the other characters lack. Unlike the grandmother, who simply assumes that she is morally superior to everyone else, the Misfit seriously questions the meaning of life and his role in it. He has carefully considered his actions in life and examined his experiences to find lessons within them. He has even renamed himself because of one of these lessons, believing that his punishment didn’t fit his crime. Because the Misfit has questioned himself and his life so closely, he reveals a self-awareness that the grandmother lacks. He knows he isn’t a great man, but he also knows that there are others worse than him. The Misfit’s philosophies may be depraved, but they are consistent. Unlike the grandmother, whose moral code falls apart the moment it’s challenged, the Misfit has a steady view of life and acts according to what he believes is right.
His beliefs and actions are not moral in the conventional sense, but they are strong and consistent and therefore give him strength of conviction that the grandmother lacks. Twisted as it might be, he can rely on his moral code to guide his actions. The grandmother cannot, and in the last moments of her life, she recognizes his strength and her weaknesses. O’Connor called the Misfit a “prophet gone wrong,” and indeed, if he had applied his moral integrity to a less depraved lifestyle, he could have been considered a true preacher, pillar, or teacher. The third and final trait of both Characters is realization. Both the grandmother and the Misfit had a sudden realization.
The grandmother realized that the Misfit was just a human just like her she said “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children”. The Misfit realized that killing gave him no pleasure he said, said “She would have been a good woman, if it has been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life”. In Conclusion it appears that in fact the murderer (prophet gone wrong) has more moral than the grandmother, and that his faith in Jesus is stronger.