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What is the significance of the title " A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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amelie0531 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted December 1, 2010 at 12:11 AM via web

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What is the significance of the title " A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 1, 2010 at 1:06 AM (Answer #1)

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The family stops at Red Sammy's to eat. June Star comments that is is a broken down shack. The grandmother, who is selfish herself, notes that things aren't like they used to be and she tells Sammy he is a good man for letting two boys charge some gas. Sammy's wife brings the food out and adds that you can't trust anyone. Then they talk about the escaped murderer, the Misfit. The consensus of this conversation is that no one can be trusted and the the world has become a more violent place. The children are not respectful but really every character, with the exception of Sammy perhaps, is only interested in selfish needs.

After killing the grandmother, the Misfit says she may have been a good woman if someone had been there to shoot her every day of her life. What he means is that the world is so off balance that it takes these extreme situations to prompt people into behaving unselfishly. If everyone is selfish and untrustworthy, maybe the only thing that would make them appreciate life and others would be to constantly face death. It has been a subject of debate whether or not the grandmother actually achieves grace when she says the Misfit is "one of her children" or if this was also a last ditch effort to save her own life. This ambiguity shows that a good woman is also hard to find. In fact, it is interesting to consider if O'Connor may have intended this ambiguity.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 1, 2010 at 3:33 AM (Answer #2)

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The title of this short story is connected to the theme of religion, prevalent in many of O'Connor's stories. The words of the title are spoken by the owner of the barbecue place, Red Sammy, in conclusion to their conversation about how the world has become a dangerous place where a person can no longer trust anyone else. The grandmother agrees with him that "good men" are difficult to find in the society they live in. The grandmother believes she is a good judge of character, but she bases her judgment on wealth, status, and outward appearance. The grandmother thinks she is a good Christian woman, but she is unable to show compassion or love toward any other person. The grandmother talks a good game, but it is not until she faces death that she realizes "that she is responsible for the man before her and joined to him by ties of kinship which have their roots deep in the mystery she has been merely prattling about so far."  It is then she understands that finding a "good man" has been difficult only because she has refused to recognize the good in people.

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