dotted outline of a black cat sitting within a basket in front of an older woman wearing a sundress

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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Explain the exposition, rising conflict, climax, and resolution for "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

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The exposition includes the background information regarding the Grandmother and her family, which includes her son, Bailey, his unnamed wife, and their children, John Wesley and June Star. The exposition also includes the family's plan to travel to Florida instead of Tennessee, which is where the Grandmother wants to visit....

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There is also information about an escaped convict named the Misfit, who is heading towards Florida.

The rising action includes the family's road trip to Florida with the Grandmother riding in the backseat in between her two grandchildren, their stop at a barbecue stand, Bailey's decision to listen to his mother by turning down a dirt road, and their car accident, which leaves them stranded on the side of the road. The three armed men approaching the car is also included in the rising action, as well as the Grandmother recognizing the Misfit. The family members being escorted into the woods one-by-one to be killed is also included in the rising action.

The climax is the moment when the Grandmother recognizes that she is not superior to the Misfit and experiences a moment of grace by acknowledging his humanity. She finally perceives the Misfit as someone she could see as her own son, who deserved to be loved and nurtured instead of neglected and abused. The tension of the story reaches its highest peak when the Grandmother attempts to connect with the Misfit by touching his shoulder, which prompts him to shoot her in the chest.

The resolution occurs when The Misfit instructs the men to put the Grandmother with the rest of the family. He then says that the Grandmother had the potential to be a good woman "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." When Bobby Lee mentions that killing the family was fun, the Misfit concludes by saying, "It's no real pleasure in life."

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The exposition includes information about the grandmother's wanting to visit Tennessee rather than Florida, her relationship with her son, Bailey, the background information about The Misfit having escaped prison. The "children's mother," who remains nameless, is introduced and described, as are the two older children, John Wesley and June Star.

The rising action begins when the car ride starts the following morning. The grandmother "sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her." She notes the time and mileage on the car before they leave because she is interested to see how many miles they go. This beginning of this car trip initiates the action that will lead to the climax. The rising action also includes the family's car accident and the description of the men with guns who stop in a "hearse-like automobile" to check them out.

The climax occurs when the grandmother recognizes and identifies The Misfit; though he tells her that "'it would have been better for all of [them] if [she] hadn't of reckernized [him].'" Bailey says something terrible to her, and the grandmother begins to cry. This is the turning point of the story, when we begin to understand what the family's fate will be—as a result of the grandmother's lack of common sense.

The falling action includes the family's deaths, one by one, in the woods, as well as the conversation between the grandmother and The Misfit while the others are killed in the woods, shot by the other boys. Finally, the resolution occurs when the grandmother tells him that he is one of her "'own children,'" and she finally realizes his humanity and how little of significance truly separates them—despite her earlier beliefs about the good old days and what makes a good man—and The Misfit shoots her.

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The exposition includes all of the information about the grandmother and her family. The rising conflict begins with “The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go,” for here she sets herself and family up for the events that follow. It continues through Red Sammy saying, “A good man is hard to find,” and, briefly afterwards, when the grandmother demands that Bailey turn around to see the plantation she knew as a “young lady,”  and culminates when they have a flat tire. As soon as the men approach them, the story rises in tension, the conflict between the grandmother and Misfit—and all that each represents—sharpening as they interact.  The climax occurs when she says “why you’re one of my babies” and the Misfit “spr[i]ngs back as if a snake had bitten him” and then shoots her.  The resolution includes the men walking away, the Misfit looking “defenseless” and commenting that the grandmother “would have been a good woman,” powerfully ironic after Red Sammy’s statement earlier and within the context of the story’s title.

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