Compare and contrast the grandmother and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find".

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The grandmother has enjoyed privilege in her life, the privilege associated with her social and economic class.  The Misfit has not enjoyed such privilege, and he is bitter.  When the grandmother readies herself for a road trip, she wears a dress with matching hat and gloves because she wants to make sure that, should she be in an accident, any person who sees her dead on the side of the road would know that she's a lady.  She judges society for having lost its manners, and she mourns the fact that people are no longer honest and good in her view.  However, she doesn't seem to have any understanding of the idea that some people have bigger problems than worrying about their manners.  For example, the Misfit was convicted of a crime he did not commit, representative of the fact that the poor tend not to be believed the way the wealthy are.  His home life was tragic, his life a wreck, and so he decided that if everyone was going to believe that he was bad, then he might as well be bad.  She is a product of her society, and he is a victim of it.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The grandmother and the Misfit have more differences than similarities, such as age and social status.  The similarities are few in number, bu they do exist.  Both the grandmother and the Misfit are both missing important emotional and spiritual bonds.  The grandmother has never truly "gotten" what being saved truly means and how to achieve true salvation.  She is ignorant to what real salvation is.  The Misfit also is missing the ability to empathize and bond with other human beings. He sees them as a means to an end.  He does not hold respect for human life.  The only companions he has are two goons who aid him in murdering others.  The grandmother recognizes that the Misfit has, more than likely, not had anyone really care about him in his life, so she has an epiphany at the end of the story and desperately reaches out to him on an emotional and spiritual level.

Heather Nieto | Student

In addition to their lack of understanding as to what true "salvation" really means, the Grandmother and the Misfit also share a common link in that both are steeped in Southern manners and follow those manners, no matter the situation. However, there is great irony in both of their polite behaviors. 

In the text, the Grandmother is described as dressing up for the car trip, saying that she did so "In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady." If you know anything about Southern ladies, they tend to dress on the nice end, even when traveling by car. She also harps on the children's seeming lack of manners, saying "In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, "children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else." She spends most of the car ride criticizing others' manners, and after the accident, she attempted to "save" the Misfit with good manners. 

The Misfit, too, has good manners like the Grandmother. He is respectful to her and the parents, even though he means to do them harm. He refers to the Grandmother as "Ma'am" and "Lady" and has a rather charming discourse with the Grandmother as his cronies dispatch the family in pairs. When Bailey curses at his mother for recognizing the Misfit, he stands up for her, saying ""Lady," he said, "don't you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don't mean. I don't reckon he meant to talk to you thataway."" 

What is ironic about both of these characters' manners (and what links them together and causes them to differ at the same time) is the fact that their polite "manners" are really a ruse. The Grandmother spends much of the story criticizing Bailey, his wife, and the children in her head, but she says that Red Sammy Butts, a man who treats his wife as if she were a slave, is a "good man". She seizes on the Misfit as a "good man", too, even though he is a murderer and has every intention of killing her and her family. The misfit's polite discourse is ironic simply because of his deeper intentions once the Grandmother has recognized them - it's not a good idea to leave witnesses when one is running from the law. 

 

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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