A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

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How do you think the grandmother changes during the course of events in  "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

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emsteph eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The grandmother's character arc reflects the Catholic mindset of the story's author, Flannery O'Connor. Initially, the grandmother is a selfish, snobby person. She looks down on black people and glorifies the Old South. She cares about her appearance only so other people will assume she's classy and "a lady." She does not seem to care about her family, even as they are being led out into the woods to die at the hands of the Misfit's gang.

However, her encounter with the Misfit changes everything. When the Misfit first appears, he is described as a rather unattractive man in a Hawaiian shirt, hardly the epitome of class and good taste. He is a criminal. And yet when he sobs about how empty and unhappy he is, the Grandmother's soul is moved. She calls him "one of my own babies" because she realizes her connection to all other human beings. She sees herself and the Misfit as fellow sinners longing for redemption.

She dies reaching out to touch the Misfit. For the first time, she is trying to comfort someone else not so she looks good, but out of true compassion. She goes from only looking out for herself to seeing all the world as her family.

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writergal06 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Good question. The grandmother does seem to change at the very end of the story, though it doesn't change her destiny in the story at all. Throughout the story, the Grandmother is very selfish and, frankly, annoying. She pushes everyone around, purposely antagonizing her son and his wife. The detour was her idea, though she never takes responsibility, and the situation that the family finds themselves in is because of her faulty memory. Even while her family is being systematically executed, she is still looking out for herself, trying to falter the Misfit into letting her live. The instance of change, while brief, happens after she and the Misfit question the resurrection of Jesus. Seeing his human side for the first time, she finally realizes her own selfishness and hypocrisy, and reaches for him in a moment of sympathy. That moment is her last, as he shoots her three times as a response to her action. The glimpse of change is present, but her life is taken before any indication of real, permanent change.

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chloemink eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Her religious epiphany at the story's end provides the philosophical thrust behind the narrative. She is selfish and pushy; in fact, her desire to see a house from her childhood results in the family's death at the end of the story. She demonstrates racist behavior and she reveals a superior moral attitude.

The Misfit's explanation for his behavior provides an opportunity for the self-centered Grandmother to reflect on her beliefs in the moments before he shoots her "three times through the chest." In her final moment, the Grandmother reaches out and touches the Misfit, whispering "You're one of my own children!" The Misfit's final commentary on the Grandmother is that "she would of been a good woman ... if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

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