How does the story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" fit into the Southern Gothic genre?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is a fine example of Southern Gothic literature because it reunites the elements that withstand this genre from the rest.

1. Southern traditional location- The story takes place in Georgia during a family trip to Florida, the grandmother insisting upon stopping in Tennessee. This brings with it the opportunity for the Southern Goth author to expand upon the descriptors that are salient in the setting such as the Blue Mountains, the hills of the South, the flora and the fauna of the locale.

2. Civil War and Southern history- the memory of antebellum homes, the grandmother's insistence in seeing the "secret panel" home, the remembrance of a better time, and of how great the South once was. There is also the use of the "negro" epithet which is a direct characterization often attributed to Old South folk.

3. Black humor/irony- the ironic events in the story lead to a deadly tragedy. However, there is a lot of enigmatic and conflicting dialogue which frames the somewhat pathetic begging of the grandmother.

4. Tragedy- the end of the story is that the family is murdered in the woods by a most-wanted criminal dubbed "The Misfit". The inevitability of their fates, the fact that it was by coincidence that they crossed paths with this mentally-ill criminal, and the grave mistake of the grandmother in remembering at the last minute that the detour that she wants to take was the wrong one all compile to show how we are all prone to tragedy and death. One decision can ruin everything. Life is fickle and does not always have a happy ending.

5. Eccentricism- the grandmother, June Star, The Misfit, and even Bailey, all show traits of eccentric and stubborn behavior. The manner in which the diner's owner also acts denotes O'Connor's insistence in making her characters stand out by quirks and habits that the reader will find strange, to a point. Yet, this is the enigma that is produced in Southern Goth, and the reason why this particular story exhudes the traits of the genre almost entirely.