How do various revelations mark the development of the story?"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Mystery and Manners, author Flannery O.Connor asserts that the grandmother's final act is "a moment of grace."  With the act of saving grace for the grandmother at the story's end, the narrative is, therefore, developed toward this culminating moment.

In the exposition of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother is introduced as a contrary woman.  For instance, she does not want to go to Florida as her son and his family do; in addition, her actions prove portentous:  she secretly brings her cat by hiding it in a basket because she does not want to leave it along for days.  And, as Miss O'Connor comments, "old ladies exactly reflect the banalities of the society [with] comical effects."  So, Grandmother dresses up for the road trip, just in case of an accident.  For, if anyone finds her, he/she will recognize her as a lady by her dress. The grandmother is also a "back seat driver," cautioning her son about the speed-limit and scolds the children about being "respectful of their native states."  As they pass a large cotton field with graves, Grandmother remarks, "look at the graveyard!" an ominous exclamation, indeed.

When the family stops at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches, Grandmother talks with the proprietor, who complains of not being able to trust many people: 

'these days you don't know who to trust,' he said.

People are certainly not nice like they used to be,' said the grandmother and she alludes to the Misfit.

The woman who waits on the family adds that she would not be surprised "if he didn't attack this place right here."  But, Red Sam silences her, however not before saying, "A good man is hard to find," and discussing "better times" with the woman.  After they leave Red Sam, the grandmother naps and directs Bailey's driving, suggesting they all visit a plantation home:  "She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it."  After the urgings of his mother and children, Bailey finally acquiesces and turns off, telling him mother, "...this is the only time we're going to stop for anything lke this.  This is the one and only time.

Ironically, the car's one turn is the "one and only time," as her son Bailey has declared, for the car gets loose, jumps onto Bailey, he swerves and has a serious accident with the car.  Right before this occurrence, the grandmother realizes that she has remembered the location of the plantation home incorrectly.  So, because of her cat and her selfish interest in seeing a house, the family is thrown out beside a lonely dirt road.  Ominously, a "big black battered hearse-like automobile" appears with "three men in it."  When one of them comes nearer, the grandmother shrieks as she recognizes The Misfit and says, "The Misfit!...I recognized you at once."

Fatally, the Misfit tells her that it would have been better if she had not recognized him.  For, hers and the family's fates are now sealed although the grandmother appeals to him by saying, "I know you're a good man" and asking him, "Do you every pray?"  In a statement that alludes to the "hearselike" vehicle, he tells the grandmother, "I was buried alive."  He complains that Jesus "thrown everything off balance," so there is no pleasure for him but meanness.

Thus, "a world of propriety and illusion is laid low by wrath" as Ochshorn writes in "'A Good Man Is Hard to Find/A cloak of Grace:; Contradictions in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."  But, the grandmother receives grace offered her when she tells the Misfit, "Why, you're one of my children" right before he shoots her, since she finally recognizes herself as a sinner, part of the same twisted humanity as The Misfit. 

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