I feel terrible that I have not posted in quite some time, hopefully this will make up for it.
Recently I reread one of my favorite narratives, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. It’s been about six years since I’ve encountered this literary work and it surprised me how differently I interpreted it.
For anyone who is new to this short story here is a link to where you can view it.
In short, this work shows a family that includes a mother, father, their new-born baby, two excited, bratty, adventure seeking kids, and a grandmother on their way to Florida where the infamous Misfit is said to be located. The Misfit is a man gone wrong who kills people whom he encounters, however, the kids don’t let his presence faze them and pushed the family to go about their journey.
O’Connor writes as the omniscient narrator as she gives us a look into the grandmothers ideas and actions. On their way to Florida the family reluctantly decides to make a pit stop on a bumpy dirt road where the grandmother remembers a house with a secret panel. After the kids, June Star and John Wesley, just about give their father Bailey an ear full, he steers the car in the direction of the mysterious house despite his plan to stick to a tight schedule.
While being miles along this road the grandmother suddenly realized that she was mistaken; the house she remembers is in Tennessee. Her face turns cherry red and her feet jump up, frightening her cat that lands on Bailey Boys shoulder which inevitable causes the father to lose control of the vehicle. The car jerks sideways ejecting the mother and her newborn baby while June Star and John Wesley are smacked into the floor and the grandmother is thrown into the front seat of the car as it took a tumble.
The entire family survives, to the kids disappointment, and while awaiting for help, a vehicle pulls up carrying three men. The family explains their situation when the grandmother studies the face of one of the men who turns out to be the Misfit.
In this moment we notice the grandmother, a self-proclaimed christian woman, to fall deeply into her faith. As the Misfit orders his companions take Bailey away from the rest of the family, the grandmother begins to frantically speak to the Misfit, trying to pull him towards the light in attempt for the family to be let go safely. Within a few moments there’s a gunshot. The Misfit begins to pull the rest of the family, first the mother and new-born, then the two kids.
The Grandmother is last. She faces the Misfit with hopes to show him the ways of God. What she learns is that this man used to be a gospel singer and was once in the military. At one point this Misfit was a virtuous man, raised by great people, and with a cleansed soul.
The Grandmother then mentions something to the Misfit, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (O’Connor). It could be that the woman suddenly realized that this man was in fact one of her own, or maybe she became a symbol of Christ where everyone is one of her children.
Out of fear the Misfit shot her three times in the chest. O’Connor creates an image of the grandmother lying on the floor with her legs crossed in innocence with a smile on her face while facing up towards the sky, giving the idea that she has found God and is at peace.
In the last few lines of the story the Misfit says: “She would have been a good woman… if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (O,Connor). The grandmother was a woman with a great amount of criticism. In the beginning of the work she criticised the mother and father for their poor parenting of the two rascal kids. The grandmother shares a few dehumanizing words about African-Americans and sees them as more of an object instead of a fellow human. She was many things that was not in the qualities of a “good Christian woman.”
The Misfits response to this shows that even the most religious of people can be the most critical. The Misfit was a murderer, however, he had many qualities of a “good man.” The grandmother had qualities of a “good woman” but saw herself as greater than others. The title of this narrative, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is perfect for this work. Is there a direct representation of a “good person?” Or is everyone, despite their best interests, a bad person?
Cover Image: http://www.foundmyself.com/Rustic%20Images/art/old-fredericksburg-country-church/23412