In O'Conner's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother speaks to the Misfit about good breeding, Jesus, and seeing good in a murderer during the final moments of her life and the lives of her family. She is characterized through most of the story as selfish because she...
In O'Conner's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother speaks to the Misfit about good breeding, Jesus, and seeing good in a murderer during the final moments of her life and the lives of her family. She is characterized through most of the story as selfish because she would rather go to Tennessee than Florida, but she also wants her family to act as well-behaved as she believes herself to be.
As the grandmother speaks with the Misfit in the final moments of her family members' lives, she brings up the two good things in life that she knows about--her faith and her quality upbringing. It is interesting that she doesn't ask the men to spare the lives of her family, but she does ask for her own life because she's a "lady." It's as though the grandmother naively believes that if the Misfit can see that she is a good Christian and a lady of good breeding, then he will magically change his mind and not hurt her.
Another way that the grandmother is characterized is as one who shows faith in humankind even when faced with a serial killer. For example, she appeals to the Misfit's sense of humanity and grace by asking him if he prays. In fact, the grandmother acts like a true proselyting missionary when she says, "If you would pray . . . Jesus would help you." The Misfit agrees that Jesus would help him if he prays, but the problem is that he doesn't want any help.
In the end, right before the Misfit shoots her, the grandmother comes to a realization that she may not have come to unless faced with this desperate moment. She realizes that everyone on earth is linked to each other. For example, the text says that her "head cleared for an instant," and then she says, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" This moment seems to be the turning point in the grandmother's perspective. The Misfit seems to be feeling connected with her like a son feels towards a mother, too. Unfortunately, this is uncomfortable for him, and he shoots her. For the grandmother, however, she experiences a moment of revelation right before she dies. She realizes that even serial killers have mothers and that humanity is all connected. As a result, the grandmother's last feelings are motherly in nature, which means that she may have learned that life isn't about being a lady so much as it is about connecting with others on an authentic level.