LiteraryAnalysis on “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O`Connor
“Agood Man is Hard to Find” is a short story written by FlanneryO’Connor back in 1953. It was however published in 1955 as one ofthe tales in a collection of short stories. It became her most famousstory and mainly spoke of vanity and pettiness in human beingsthrough a cynical manner. Some readers have found her writing asgrotesque and full of dark humor. O’Connor was a staunch RomanCatholic, and she, therefore, saw her writing as a way of depictingthe society as she saw it through her faith. She also claimed thather works represented some elements of hope through divineintervention and the mysterious ways that God worked.
Thesis:This paper will analyze “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by FlanneryO’Conner by comparing and contrasting the different literaryelements that she used precisely to bring out the teachings of thetale to her audience.
Thestory begins with a family planning a vacation. A disagreement isquickly noted as the grandmother wants the entire family thatincludes her son, Bailey, the wife and her three grandchildren JohnWesley, June Star and the baby to go to the destination that thegrandmother wants. Bailey seeks to take the family to Florida, buthis mother prefers they visit their home in Tennessee where thegrandkids have never visited. To add to her case, the grandmotherclaims that the escaped convict known as “The Misfit” had escapedfrom prison and was on his way to Florida thus the journey may be toodangerous for the family. No one seems to care about her concernsand the following day the family gets into the vehicle, and theybegin the journey to Florida. The grandmother against her son’swishes hides her pet cat, Petty Sing, in a basket before they leave.Along the way, the grandmother plays games with her grandchildren andtells them stories. She tells them of a man who used to court her bybringing her watermelon at her door every day (O`Connor, 2015). Whenthe family stops over for lunch at a restaurant, they meet Red Sammyand his wife. Red Sammy laments on giving gas to some two men ondebt, and the grandmother tells the couple how it was difficult totrust people since it is hard to find “good men” in those times.She also informs them about The Misfit as well. When the familyembarks on their journey, the grandmother wants to visit someplantation that she used to go to as a child. She manipulates hergrandkids by telling them how the building had pillars and that therewas some secret panel. The kids get excited, and they throw a tantrumuntil Bailey reluctantly turns to that side road. As they begin toadvance, the path appears like it has not been used for a while, andit is at that moment that the grandmother realizes the grave mistakeshe had made (O`Connor, 2015). She remembers that the plantation shereferred to was actually in Tennessee and not where they were headed.Fearing the anger of her son, she says nothing but the news makes herjumpy that she drops the basket that was hiding the cat. The cat thatis now free springs onto Bailey’s shoulder and this scares himmaking him lose control of the vehicle. The car rolls over a coupleof times and the mother gets injured on her shoulder. The kids areexcited about the accident, and the cynical June Star is disappointedthat nobody gets killed. The family then have to sit and wait foranother vehicle that might rescue them. A car comes along after awhile and out of it three men exit. One of them has no shirt on, andthe grandmother makes another mistake by identifying him to his faceas The Misfit. The grandmother tries to change The Misfit by tellinghim that he is good, and she even manages to make him tell her abouthis childhood. However, all these tactics do not seem to work sinceBailey and John Wesley are taken to the woods and shot dead. The nextfamily members to be killed are the mother, June Star, and the baby.The grandmother is now in shock and begins telling The Misfit aboutJesus and that he should not have to kill her. When The Misfit startsto act like he is listening, the grandmother calls him her child thentries to touch him and for her troubles she gets shot three times inthe chest. The Misfit finishes by telling his goons that thegrandmother would have been a good woman if she had someone to shoother every minute of her life (O`Connor, 2015).
Analysisof the Literal Elements Used
Thefirst issue noted in the story is the meaning of the term “goodman.” The grandmother applies the term “good” to refer todifferent characters that the whole sense of that phrase gets lost.After meeting Red Sammy who complains to the grandmother as to why helet two men get gas on credit while it was evident that he had beenconned she responds by stating that the reason is the Red Sammy is a“good man” (O`Connor, 2015). This instance shows that thegrandmother’s description of good includes words like making poorchoices, blind faith, and gullibility. She then calls The Misfit“good” after she realizes who he is, and he told her he would notwant to shoot a lady. To the grandmother, being a lady is thebaseline to what she considers moral, and she regularly calls TheMisfit a good man as an attempt to reach his moral chords all ofwhich fail to work. The notion, therefore, is that the grandmotherjudges a person as good as long as their moral values were same ashers. The reader, therefore, learns that the “goodness” that thegrandmother was looking for in men was a skewed opinion that wasclearly wrong (Lohafer, 2012).
Graceis another theme that is apparent in the story. Considering that theauthor, O’Conner was a staunch Roman Catholic, she had to put somebiblical teachings in her story. The reader finds that thegrandmother and The Misfit both receive grace since God grantssalvation to those that even appear like they do not deserve it. Weclearly see that even from the lofty perch that the grandmother hadplaced herself upon, she is a bad person for she lies to hergrandchildren and constantly manipulates her son. Thus, she and TheMisfit are both considered bad people. This part where both receivegrace is depicted when the grandmother talks about Jesus to the pointthat The Misfit’s eyes cleared for a moment. Even after killing thegrandmother, The Misfit realizes that meanness had lost its pleasureto him signifying that he could well be on the path towards change(Lohafer, 2012).
Manipulationis another theme that arises from the story. The reader can see thegrandmother in several instances trying to manipulate the members ofher family so that she gets her way (O`Connor, 2015). It is,therefore, apparent that the grandmother is selfish and only caresabout what she wants. She goes further in her manipulation by makingthe grandkids convince their father to make a wrong turn that landsthem in trouble. She, however, fails when she tries to manipulate TheMisfit for her attempts do not work, and she gets shot and killed(Lohafer, 2012).
Societyand class are another themes that the reader discerns through thegrandmother. She claims that wearing a hat makes her look like alady. She uses the n-word a lot and misses the old days when childrenwere more polite, and she could visit other plantations as her familywas treated with respect. These declarations by the grandmother showa woman that considered herself born of a high class, and she lookeddown upon other people (Lohafer, 2012).
Thetown called “Toomsboro” is mentioned soon as the grandmotherwakes up from her nap. As the family passes through it, she remembersthe plantation that she used to visit as a child. She makes sure thather son is manipulated to going there by her grandchildren.Considering that the name of the town looks like the word “tomb,”it becomes apparent to the reader that the family was about to facesome doom. This destruction is depicted by the appearance of TheMisfit and his crew (Baldick, 2014).
Afterthe family car had crashed, the approaching vehicle they saw wasdescribed as “Big black battered hearse-like automobile.” Thedescription of the car as “hearse-like” was another foreshadowingof the impending death the entire family was about to face since theywere killed by the occupants of that vehicle (Fink, 2013).
Thecloudless sky is mentioned several times in the text. This clear skycould symbolize the barren state that the family found itself. Stuckin the middle of nowhere and killed off one by one with no one tohelp them. The cloudless sky could also stand for the emptiness thatwas in The Misfit’s heart since he eliminated the entire familywithout a single care (Fink, 2013).
Thegrandmother’s hat is also used symbolically to signify thecharacteristics of a lady. She stated that even if she was in anaccident and she still had her hat on, everyone will see that she wasa lady. Thus, the hat, in this case, is used to show the differencein class within the society, for one without a hat could not be seenas a high born. However, looking at the other side of it, the hat isan external object that the grandmother believes will describe hertrue self on the inside. This symbolism, therefore, shows howmistaken the grandmother was in judging people by the externalappearance (Baldick, 2014).
Theliterary elements used in the story have had a way of entertainingand offering some lessons as well. The different themes brought aboutuseful lessons on the nature of “goodness” and “grace”. Thestyles used such as symbolism and imagery have been entertaining tothe reader by creating suspense in the case where the audience isanticipating some tragedy, but they are not yet sure of which kind.Thus, these elements have helped the author to not only captivate thereader but to also offer meaningful lessons to them (Lohafer, 2012).
Baldick,C. (2014). Criticismand literary theory 1890 to the present.Routledge.
Fink,A. (2013). ConductingResearch Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper: From theInternet to Paper.Sage Publications.
Lohafer,S. (2012). The short story. TheCambridge Companion to American Fiction After 1945,68.
O`Connor,F. (2015). Agood man is hard to find.New Canadian Library.