What do the stories about former beaus, lost opportunity, and secret passages in houses relate about the grandmother?"A Good Man is Hard To Find" Flannery O'Connor

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A satirical character, the grandmother of O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," is filled with petty superiorities as she feigns aristocratic and genteel trappings. She does not want to go to Florida as the family does; instead, she wants to visit "some of her connections in east Tennessee" and tries to persuade her son Bailey to do so.

Then, on the day that the family does depart, the grandmother dresses in a pretentious manner, wearing a navy blue straw sailor hat and a navy blue dotted swiss dress.  "Her collars and cuffs are white organdy trimmed with lace so that in case of an accident "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady."  Continuing her pretentions of being a lady, she tells the children in the car that she was courted years ago by Mr. Edgar Allen Teagarden, who was a gentleman who had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and became a very wealthy man.

After lunch, when the grandmother awakens from a nap, she believes that she recognizes a road that she contends contains a plantation that she has visited. 

"There was a secret panel in this house...[where] all the family silver was hidden ...whe Sherman came through but it was never found." 

This mysterious suggestion incites the children to demand that they visit this place.  Finally, the father gives in, ironiclly stating a prophesy for his family, "All right,...but get this:  this is the only time we're going to stop for anything like this.  This is the one and only time." And, it is only because of the grandmother's selfishness and  self-interest that the family takes this fateful turn off from their destination. 

It is this self-serving personality of the grandmother that prompts the Misfit to declare that she "would have been a good woman...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life" because it is only at the moment of her death that the grandmother displays compassion for others.

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