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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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what is the conflict and tension?

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The main conflict in this story is of the character vs. society variety. The grandmother, who is obviously an older woman, seems to clash with pretty much everyone younger than she is. The grandmother's values and beliefs are outdated, passé, and old-fashioned, and so she experiences tension with her son—Bailey—and his (frankly, horrible) children, as well as with the Misfit. She looks back at the past, and she doesn't see an era rife with prejudice; rather, she sees it as a time when people respected their elders and their so-called betters—when things were just simpler. (Of course, she does not recognize that they were simpler for her—as a white, affluent person—but not necessarily for people who weren't white or as well-off.) She makes a number of racist comments out of ignorance, which are racist and hurtful nonetheless. She also seems to respect people of a certain class, and people who share her idea of behavior that is "ladylike" and "gentlemanly." When she first meets the Misfit, she cannot see that people like him have been harmed by her values and prejudices, and so she conflicts with him as well.

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In Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," there are several conflicts that occur. There is a conflict between the grandmother and her son, Bailey. Tension between the two results from the grandmother moving back in with him because she is aging. Whenever she makes a suggestion, he ignores it or is against it. The rest of the family also seems to be against the grandmother.

Another conflict that occurs in the story is between the grandmother and the Misfit. Once he is talking to the family and his men are taking them off into the woods to kill them, the grandmother tries to convince him that he is a "good man." This conflict (man vs. man) of the grandmother trying to convince the Misfit that he is good and not to kill them causes the tension in the story. In the end, the Misfit kills the grandmother, which shows that he is not a good man as she tried to suggest. 

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