Flannery Oconnors “a Good Man Is Hard To Find”In her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Flannery O’Connor’s seems to
portray a feeling that society as she saw it was drastically changing for the worse.
O’Connor’s obvious displeasure with society at the time is most likely a result of her
Catholic religion and her very conservative upbringing in the old south.’ She seems to
depict her opinion in this particular story by using the character of the grandmother to
show what she saw was happening to the times. Evidence of society’s “demise” is woven
into the story, and presented through an interesting generation gap between the
grandmother and her family.
The grandmother is representative of devoutness and Christianity which O’Connor
apparently believed to be more prevalent in the “glamorous” Old South. Attention to prim
detail separated the grandmother from the rest of her family who seemed to be living in a
different world than she. As she organized herself in preparation for the trip, her family
was described as rather common people living in a frusturated middle class world.
O’Connor described the old woman as she settled herself comfortably, removing her white
cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window.
The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief
but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on
the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collar and cuffs
were white organdy trimmed with lace, and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray
of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the
highway would know at once she was a lady.
The parents pay little attention to the grandmother and when they do, they are
often quite rude. The unruly children are representative of the breakdown of respect, and
discipline, and are consequently a forecast of future generations. They constantly demean
the grandmother and at one point, June Star even complains that her grandmother has to
go everywhere they go right to her face. O’Connor seems to be illustrating not only how
times are changing, but how the future generations have no respect for thier precedents.
The Misfit represents evil. At one point the Misfit likens himself to Christ, in that
they both were punished for crimes they did not commit. Christ accepted death for the sins
of all people, however. The Misfit is in a constant battle against his fate that he sees
himself being punished without any cause. Although he resists this Christ-like existence he
has, he kills other innocent people not to save them, but because “it’s the only real
pleasure in life.”
Near the end of the ordeal, the grandmother recognizes the shirt the Misfit has put
on as her son’s shirt. Upon observing this image, she realizes that to be truly Christlike, she
is going to have to forgive the Misfit and accept him as a child of God. At this point, the
Misfit also has a revelation. His lesson however, is that by killing the grandmother, he
helped her find God and therefore realizes that he does have a purpose in the world, that
he will have to answer to a higher power sooner or later.
Flannery O’Connor was deeply concerned with the values and the direction of the
youth of her time. She believed that Christ was no longer enough of a priority to the
people of her generation. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is representative of Flannery
O’Connor’s concern for the priorities and values of the 1940s.