A Good Man Is Hard to Find | Study Guide

Flannery O'Connor

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Course Hero, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find Study Guide," January 12, 2017, accessed July 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Good-Man-Is-Hard-to-Find/.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find | Quotes

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1.

I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal ... aloose in it.


The grandmother

The grandmother is judgmental from the very beginning of the story. She tries to manipulate Bailey and her daughter-in-law by making them feel guilty about taking the children on the road with an escaped fugitive wandering about. She questions their judgment and parenting skills. In reality the grandmother wants to take a trip to another destination.

When Bailey and the children's mother hold steadfast to their decision, the grandmother does not fight much. She is the first person in the car, and it is her actions—bringing the cat and insisting on visiting the plantation—that ultimately lead the family to its confrontation with The Misfit.

2.

She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day.


June Star

The comment is an indication of June Star's disrespectful ways as she is referring to her grandmother. She does not show any deference to adults and speaks out to others later on in the story. She alludes to the popular radio program Queen for a Day, on which contestants air catastrophic stories about their lives in order to win the audience's vote as queen. It is doubtful the grandmother would consider this dignified behavior for a lady, so June Star is spot on in her insight that the grandmother would prefer to rule as queen in her family instead—if nothing else to voice her thoughts and opinions.

3.

Anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know ... she was a lady.


Narrator

The narrator refers to the grandmother—a shallow person who is more concerned about appearances than consequences. She also shows a morbid streak.

This comment acts as foreshadowing. When such a scenario occurs the grandmother is more worried about herself than her family.

In the actual ending The Misfit and his men rob people of their clothes. Therefore, it is not the clothes that make someone a lady (or a gentleman), it's the individual's actions. The grandmother is more concerned with superficial things rather than her behavior and treatment of others that would actually make her a lady.

4.

A good man is hard to find.


Red Sammy Butts

The grandmother and Red Sammy Butts have a conversation while the family is at the restaurant. The two of them seem to be of the same mind. They agree the past was a better time than the present and that people were once nicer than they are now. These days, a good man is hard to find. The story highlights the challenge of finding a good man as none of the men in the story are. The Misfit is the man who seems closest to being a good man, which muddies the picture of a good man since in addition to being a thoughtful individual he is also a cold-blooded killer.


5.

We've had an ACCIDENT!


June Star

June Star and John Wesley are bored and see this trip as having nothing to do with them. They are being dragged along and wish for something exciting to happen. This longing is the reason they want to go to the plantation the grandmother talks about. They see it as a chance for adventure. For the children the accident is simply entertainment, and they are exhilarated by it. They show no sensitivity or understanding.

6.

The horrible thought she had ... was that the house she ... remembered ... was ... in Tennessee.


Narrator

The grandmother realizes the plantation is not where she said it is. She is embarrassed she could forget the plantation is in a different state. She has too much pride to say anything to the family about her error. However, the mistake startles her, accidentally freeing Pitty Sing and indirectly causing the car crash.

This is symbolic of the grandmother being attached to a bygone era. Her memories of what was and perceptions of what should be are based on a distant past. The times have changed, and the grandmother is not cognizant of new realities.

7.

No pleasure but meanness.


The Misfit

The Misfit and the grandmother discuss Jesus. The Misfit is unsure whether or not Jesus raised the dead, but he believes if the resurrection of the dead did not happen then he should live only for his own pleasure. Pleasure—for The Misfit— happens in acts of violence. The Misfit has a gentle demeanor, but with this statement it is clear that something about him is off. His inability to find joy except in the context of meanness paints him as an evil character.

8.

Sooner or later you're going to forget what ... you done and just be punished for it.


The Misfit

The Misfit claims he does not remember the crime for which he was punished. In fact the crime does not even matter, and neither does the memory of it. As long as authorities have the papers then the crime must have occurred and one will be punished for it. Ultimately, people are punished regardless of their crimes or sins. Memory or recollection of the action does not matter, although individuals cannot learn from their sins if the sins cannot be remembered. It seems people are doomed to repeat the past.

9.

I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now.


The Misfit

As The Misfit and the grandmother ponder whether or not Jesus really raised the dead, The Misfit says that if Jesus did resurrect the dead then people must leave their daily lives and follow Him. But if Jesus didn't raise the dead, then people—such as himself—are correct in living life simply for their own gratification. Here he laments that he was not with Jesus to witness what really happened and that if he had seen the event for himself he might have lived his life differently.

This illustrates that The Misfit, despite his violent behavior, is someone who thinks about matters of faith and ethics and is still searching for spiritual guidance. He wants to grow and become a good man. This seeming vulnerability and desire to better himself leads the grandmother to her epiphany, or moment of grace. Unfortunately for them both, the actions she takes in response do not move The Misfit into his own moment of grace but instead lead to more violence on his part.

10.

Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!


The grandmother

The grandmother is left alone with The Misfit and realizes that she is close to death, just as each of her family members has been killed.

When the grandmother has nearly reached her end, she opens up. She recognizes The Misfit has had a hard life, and she truly feels sorry for him. She is not judging but instead showing empathy—the first such time in the story. She reaches a moment of grace as she sees both herself and The Misfit as equals—both are children of God. She reaches out to share the experience with The Misfit who has brought her to it. However, he resists grace and kills her.

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