What literary element is identified in this excerpt from A Good Man is Hard to Find: "People are certainly not nice like they used to be,' said the grandmother."
There is more than one literary element at play in this selection from O’Connor’s great short story. As you might expect with a story this good, the elements work together.
The first literary element is foreshadowing. The grandmother is right that people aren’t nice today. She’s about to run into a serial killer/mass murderer. You can’t get more not nice than that.
The second literary element is irony. Just as the title is ironic, so is this statement. The grandmother is not a nice person, so for her to be commenting on how nice or not nice people are is deeply ironic.
A third element is understatement. There’s nice and then there’s murder, and that’s what they’re going to run into.
A fourth element is characterization. The grandmother is sort of person who makes this sort of pronouncement. She defines her world, and in doing so, defines herself.