“A Good Man Is Hard To Find” (essay)

In Flannery O’Connor’s story, a family wants to go on vacation but there’s a disagreement about where to go, Bailey wants to take his family to Florida. His mother doesn’t want to go there; “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing every chance to change Bailey’s mind” (O’Connor 1 or 611). To make her case she mentions that, there’s a dangerous criminal named, The Misfit on the loose. After finally deciding their destination they travel by road to Florida. On their way to Florida, the grandmother sees a road that she’s familiar with and thinks there’s a house she recognizes and gives her son Bailey directions. Halfway down the road, she realizes that it wasn’t the correct location she thought it was and makes a noise that causes her cat to jump on the driver. The family got into a car accident; the grandma remained silent. The family waits for help to come, it turns out that their “help” was none other than the misfit himself and two of his buddies. The whole family (excluding the grandmother), was taken to the forest by the two friends of the Misfit and were killed. At this point, the grandmother said to the misfit, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” (O’Connor 622). She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.

The grandmother, who had shown very little in the way of maternal feelings throughout the story finally becomes a mom. “Therefore, it can be ascertained that the grandmother is more concerned with her own affairs without regard to other family members, even though in fact she also cares about her son and grandchildren.” (Hani 345). Not having previously demonstrated any expression of love, in the final moment of her life she gushes with love to a stranger who has murdered her family. Where she had been selfish throughout the road trip; the grandmother now opens herself up to another person in an ecstasy of selflessness.

The protagonist is the grandmother, she’s the focus of the narrative, the character whose reactions we hear the most about, as well as the only character who’s head we get inside. “In this story, the grandmother is the main character and plays an important role and has a big influence on the course of the story.” (Hani 345). The opposing force which is often called the antagonist is The Misfit. The pleasant family vacation has taken a sudden turn for the worst. The family is now trapped and waiting for help. The beginning of the conflict is at the moment the grandmother “remembers” the plantation being nearby. The Misfit arrives on the scene, the grandmother endangers the family by revealing the identity of the Misfit. One by one each member is murdered in the woods. According to Culpeper, “The conflict in interaction and the discontent among characters help readers to see plot and character developments.” (Bich Thuan 221). The conflict drives the characters and the plot forward because it is the characters going through obstacles that create suspense and tension in the story. Conflict and tension are also used to help the reader investigate the message of a story or the main idea which is not what happens rather it is the meaning of what happens.

O’Connor writes from a third-person limited omniscient point of view through the grandmother’s eyes. The point of view straddles the line between limited omniscience and total omniscience. I think the author chose this type of perspective to describe the actions of every character, but only focus on the grandmother’s thoughts and feelings. By telling the story from the third-person limited point of view, the author is able to allow the characters to keep their internal thoughts to themselves. In doing so, he allows the reader to create them on their own. This technique is often called third-person subjective. “Namely the existence of a mandate or social message that is captured in the literary works of the author who wants to be conveyed.” (Hani 342).

When the family’s car ends up in a ditch on a back road that the Grandmother mistakenly thought led to an old plantation, the Misfit feels there’s no choice but to execute the family, so he does. In the final moment of her life, it is as if the grace finally shines down into the soul of the grandmother. The Misfit finally shot her three times in the chest. The story ends with him telling his buddies who returned from shooting the rest of the family; “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” (O’Connor 622)