“A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor”A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, presents many topics that can be discussed and debated. Christianity is one of the main topics that influence this paper and its meaning. The exploration for the meaning of the Christian faith is continuous throughout O’Connor’s paper. Christianity is filled with sin and punishment, good and evil, belief and unbelief, but grandmother fully tells her opinion as she tries to convince “The Misfit” that he is a good Christian man before he kills her. Foreshadowing, personification, and the meaning of religion are all main points effecting the reader as they interpret this story.
Foreshadowing is one of the most prominent elements of speech throughout the story. Grandmother says, in the beginning of the story, “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did” (O’Connor 1063). This is only the beginning of grandma’s ironic statements that later come true with an eerie frequency. Grandmother seems not to want to go on the trip, but the next morning is the first out to the car, ready to go. The quotation above demonstrates how the grandmother has absolutely no control over the family. She truly thinks that what she says will sway the decision of the true decision-maker, Bailey. As the story continues to develop, grandmother becomes more hypocritical. Grandmother says, “In my time, children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” (O’Connor 1065) This quote illustrates what a hypocrite grandmother really has become. She is scolding her kids to be more respectable and then all the sudden sees a black boy and makes fun of him. The foreshadowing continues as the grandmother speaks up again to ask the question, “Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?”
(O’Connor 1064) She has no idea how true this statement will become in just a few short hours. Everything that grandmother says early on in the story, in someway, comes true later on in the story. It’s almost like God is listening to every word that grandmother says and makes it come true. Also, one of the most ironic happenings in the story is when each time a number becomes relevant to the story, it always happens to be five or six.This is also the number of people in the family. The grandmother never had a more true statement then when she described the plantation from “Gone with the Wind” (O’Connor 1065).
Another on of the most prevalent figures of speech throughout the story is personification. Everything throughout the story is personified. The most commonly personified item is trees. “All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of the tress for miles around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with the dust-covered trees looking down on them” (O’Connor 1068). The trees are looking over the family. It’s almost like God is looking over the family himself. God realizes that this family must be punished somehow for not realizing that he is their Supreme Being. Throughout the story, trees are personified while surrounding the family. The most ironic part of O’Connor’s personification of the trees is the final killing spot of the whole family is “the trees.” I think the trees are reminiscent of God’s children. The whole family, except grandmother, is killed among the trees. All the killings are among God’s children. O’Connor is trying to make us realize that no matter what we do in life, we are among God and his children.
Christianity is laced throughout the whole story. Almost every figure of speech, action, or quote from the story is laced with influence by some form of religion. The grandmother is described as a perfect, almost God-like figure.
The old lady settled herself comfortable, 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 collars 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 that she was a lady (O’Connor 1064).
My personal feelings swayed often throughout the story. At the beginning of the story, I thought grandmother was a religious person through and through. Her outer appearance has an impression at the beginning of the story. Her clothing, her perfection, and her attitude are perceived as a truly religious person. As the story goes on, her attitude changes. She projects an aura of holiness, while at the same time making fun of the little pickaninny standing in the doorway.
The most important and most dramatic part of the story is the grandmother’s total transformation while facing her final moments of her life. She is facing The Misfit after the rest of the family has been taken into the woods and killed. The Misfit is reminiscing on his life with his mother and father. The grandmother is listening to the whole story about his life and at the same moment,
grandmother’s head clear for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. The he put his gun down on the ground and took of his glasses and began to clean them (O’Connor 1074).
The grandmother realized that everyone is “a child” from God above. She wants The Misfit to realize God forgives everyone and is saved by the grace of God.No matter what people have done in their life, God gives us his grace and forgives us in time of need. The grandmother needed this epiphany to occur to realize this free gift from God. The grandmother wants The Misfit to recognize this present from God before his time for death comes around. Grandmother would have acted like a new person if she had realized that God forgave her for everything she did wrong in her life. She didn’t understand that she didn’t have to act like a saint to “get in good” with God.Flannery O’Connor says, herself, “if I took out this gesture and what she says with it, I would have no story” (O’Connor 1551). I, along with O’Connor, agree that this is the most influential part of the story. Without this part of the story, Christianity would have fewer ties to the entire story.
To many people, Christianity has ties to every part of life. Throughout this story, Christianity has relations with many things. Flannery O’Connor connected religion in many different and unique ways. The personification and foreshadowing throughout the story are filled with religious links.
O’Connor, Flannery. “The Element of Suspense in A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charter. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press. 1995. 1549-1552.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charter. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press. 1995. 1063-1074.