A Good Man Is Hard to Find | Study Guide

Flannery O'Connor

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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the motifs in Flannery O'Connor's short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find | Motifs


Southern Gentility

Unlocked doors, proper dress, and polite conversation represent traditional values trying to keep savagery at bay. The grandmother, Red Sammy Butts, and even The Misfit long for such elements of a civil society. However, in the case of The Misfit and the grandmother's family, savagery wins out over gentility and civilized behavior.


The willingness to pray represents the humility of accepting help. The grandmother's idea of prayer may initially be self-serving; her urging The Misfit to pray is more a ploy to get him to spare her life than it is a plan to provide him with religious assistance. Without appealing to God through prayer, The Misfit may yet have spent more time thinking about religion than the grandmother has. He has spent time pondering whether or not Jesus actually raised the dead and—deciding that this probably never happened—believes that seeking pleasure through meanness should be his goal in life. The Misfit is not interested in prayer because, as he says, "I don't want no hep. ... I'm doing all right by myself."

The Misfit

The Misfit adopts his alias because of the imbalance he sees between one's actions and resulting punishment. His name also alludes to his not having a recognized place in society. Although The Misfit represents the personification of evil, he thinks deeply about religion and is troubled by behavior he views as inappropriate, as when Bailey speaks harshly to his mother.

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