How does the author of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" use characteristics like allusion, satire, and allegory to criticize society?

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Flannery O'Connor was an American female writer of the mid-twentieth century, and her short stories, essays, and novels are often informed by her Catholicism and dissatisfaction with the increasingly secular nature of modern society.

In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the short story that lends its title to a collection published in 1953, O'Connor employs satire in the characterization of the grandmother. She overdresses in a misguided attempt to have people think she is upstanding and moral, though readers understand from the start that she is dishonest, manipulative, and selfish in the way she treats her son and his family. She hides her cat in her luggage and commandeers the family car to take her to Tennessee even though the family wants to go to Florida. Her hypocrisy is transparent; she says she wants to keep the family safe from the threat of the escaped murderer, but her motivations are self-serving, and in her conversation with Red Sammy, she is behaving like the very type of person she claims is ruining society.

The death of the grandmother is allegorical, revealed through the words of the misfit: "She would of been a good woman...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." O'Connor means to get at the idea that people too often require a life-or-death situation to truly access their faith in God.

O'Connor employs allusions in characters' names; the character John Wesley, the son of Bailey, is a reference to the founder of the Methodist church. The grandmother's cat, Pitty Sing, is a character in The Mikado who is first vilified, then later pardoned. The mention of Gone With the Wind in relation to a vanished plantation could represent the vanished postbellum society that the grandmother mistakenly believes to be moral, or the encroachment of a secular society that has lost touch with morality.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 22, 2019
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