Study Guide

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

A Good Man Is Hard to Find Essay - A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The story begins with grandmother Bailey trying to dissuade her son from taking the family to Florida. Since she wants to go elsewhere, she shows her son an article about the southbound Misfit. This tactic fails to alarm Bailey, and the family, including Pitty Sing, a cat hidden in the grandmother’s valise, begins the ominous journey southward.

Bailey reluctantly follows his mother’s request to take a sightseeing detour to a plantation. Embarrassed upon remembering that the building is in another state, the grandmother kicks the valise. Pitty Sing jumps on Bailey, who, as a result, overturns the car.

The grandmother signals for help, but when a car stops in response, she realizes that the supposed rescuers are the Misfit and his gang. While the family members are methodically taken in pairs into the woods and executed, the grandmother and the Misfit discuss the meaning of life. The climax nears when the grandmother asks the murderer to bow and pray with her.

The grandmother’s Christian love for the Misfit reflects an important religious theme within O’Connor’s fiction--the perseverance of divine grace in the presence of evil. Frequently, O’Connor creates characters who are weak and only concerned with the material realm. She then places them in a position in which they experience the divine realm, usually resulting in painful sacrifice.

Violence is common in O’Connor’s fiction; however, her emphasis is on the gains brought about by characters such as the grandmother who directly confront the world’s evil with grace.

Bibliography

Asals, Frederick. Flannery O’Connor: The Imagination of Extremity. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982.

Bloom, Harold. Flannery O’Connor. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Cash, Jean W. Flannery O'Connor: A Life. University of Tennessee, 2002.

Cheatham, George. “Jesus, O’Connor’s Artificial Nigger.” Studies in Short Fiction 22, no. 4 (Fall, 1985): 475-479. Offers a brief discussion of the symbolism of the statue in “The Artificial Nigger.”

Cheney, Brainard. “Flannery O’Connor’s Campaign for Her Country.” Sewanee Review 72 (Autumn, 1964): 555-558. Cheney’s obituary for O’Connor describes her vocation as a Christian writer.

Getz, Lorine M. Nature and Grace in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982. Getz attempts to analyze the various actions of grace in O’Connor’s work and the literary devices used to convey them.

Grimshaw, James A., Jr. The Flannery O’Connor Companion. Westport, Conn. Greenwood Press, 1981. An introduction to O’Connor’s writings, both fiction and nonfiction. Features an introductory overview, a chronological survey of O’Connor’s work, a catalog of her fictional characters, illustrations, and two appendices.

Shloss, Carol. Flannery O’Connor’s Dark Comedies: The Limits of Inference. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

Zoller, Peter T. “The Irony of Preserving the Self: Flannery O’Connor’s ‘A Stroke of Good Fortune.’” Kansas Quarterly 9, no. 2 (Spring, 1977): 61-66. Zoller reads “A Stroke of Good Fortune” as a religious parable on the foibles of human pride. Calls the story “the Divine Comedy in modern dress.”