In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother say the Misfit is one of her children when she only has one son?

In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the grandmother says that the Misfit is one of her children even though she only has one son because she's trying to appeal to his better nature, while also seeing him for the first time as a fellow human being. Unfortunately for the grandmother, this attempt produces the opposite effect, as she discovers when he kills her.

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Throughout the story, the grandmother has made it clear that she is the type to judge other people quite freely. She feels that she, unlike so many others around her, is a lady, and she laments the changing times that have resulted in people becoming less trustworthy and dignified. It...

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Throughout the story, the grandmother has made it clear that she is the type to judge other people quite freely. She feels that she, unlike so many others around her, is a lady, and she laments the changing times that have resulted in people becoming less trustworthy and dignified. It is telling, I think, that she never acknowledges her daughter-in-law by name, and the younger woman is only identified as the children's mother who wears slacks, as though wearing pants rather than a skirt is an egregious enough error in propriety as to stamp out all other aspects of the woman's identity.

When she initially comes into contact with the Misfit, the grandmother repeatedly insists that he is "a good man" and that he does not look like he has "common blood"; she says that she knows he comes "from nice people." It becomes clear that he realizes what her values are, that she is precisely the kind of person who would put him in jail for a crime he didn't commit, scapegoating him for society's ills because he is working-class while she is "a lady." When he tells her that he didn't know why he got sent to prison, she claims that he must have stolen something, looking to justify a system that had wronged him, and he "sneered slightly." Next, she tells him to pray. She seems to continue to blame him rather than society for the injustices he endured. The grandmother continues her attempt to manipulate him by telling him that he's "not common," which only shows her values more clearly.

Ultimately, however, when the grandmother hears the Misfit's voice nearly crack with emotion, her "head clear[s] for an instant." It is then that she reaches up to touch him, and she calls him "one of [her] babies." After he shoots her, she sits on the ground "with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky." Because the narrator tells us that her head cleared, I interpret this as the first moment of real clarity for her. The grandmother no longer sees the differences between her and this criminal, a man she would judge so critically in any other situation, but she recognizes their shared humanity. The fact that she is described as looking like a child after death tells me that she died in a state of innocence. In the end, she's had an epiphany—she stops trying to manipulate the Misfit as she has been trying to do all along—and she simply treats him like a young man who could be one of her children. It is this real experience of emotional intimacy, I think, that compels the Misfit to react as though a "snake had bitten him" and shoot her immediately. It's the first time he's uncomfortable with her because he has likely never experienced that kind of kindness from someone of her ilk.

In short, she says this line because she is seeing clearly for the first time in her life, and this is why he says that she'd have been a good woman all along (and not just at the end) if she'd been facing death for her whole life.

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In answering this question it's important to remind ourselves just what kind of a pickle the grandmother is in. She's entirely at the mercy of an escaped convict, the Misfit, a crazed killer who's liable to lash out at the least provocation. That being the case, it's only natural that the grandmother should try to humor him in some way, anything that might make him less likely to kill her.

She does this by treating him like a normal human being, someone with whom she can discuss religious matters. The grandmother knows full well that the Misfit is anything but a normal human being, of course, but under the circumstances, treating him like one is most probably her best bet for staying alive.

After other appeals have failed, the grandmother calls the Misfit one of her children, even though she only has one child. In saying this, she's not only establishing a personal connection between herself and the escaped killer, but experiencing a moment of grace, seeing the Misfit as fully human and not unlike her own child in this way. Unfortunately for the grandmother, this final tactic falls flat, and the Misfit shoots her dead.

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The grandmother, in a misguided attempt to appeal to the Misfit's non-existent sympathy, calls him "one of her own children." She does not mean that she suddenly recognizes the Misfit as her long-lost child in a literal sense; rather, she means that he is so familiar to her at this particular moment that he could be her own child.

The grandmother makes this kind of comment in response to a display of vulnerability by the Misfit. While talking about Jesus, the Misfit has just displayed some emotional depth, as evidenced by the expression on his face being "as if he were going to cry." Possibly, the grandmother may be trying to deepen the emotional connection between herself and the Misfit so that he will feel something positive towards her and let her live, but no matter her motives, her attempts to create a bond fail. The Misfit shoots her when she tries to touch his shoulder and offer him comfort, and he and Bobby Lee mock her talkative manner over her dead body.

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Yes, you are right to comment on this, because, as far as we know, the grandmother only has one son, Bailey. However, at the end of the story, as she converses with the Misfit whilst her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are being killed, she suddenly has a kind of epiphany which involves her identification of the Misfit as being her child:

Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!

This is a statement that must not be taken literally. Rather, if we look at this quote in context, we can see that the grandmother is tremendously moved by the Misfit's expressed desire to ascertain the truth of Jesus and his actions. Her epiphany is therefore based on her understanding of a sense of human connection between them both and her awareness of the similarities between them. She realises that she is a "Misfit" just like the Misfit, but just before her death she is given this moment of insight in which she is allowed to see herself for who she really is.

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