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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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In O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," what type of man is the Misfit?

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In her attempt to plead for her life—and maybe the lives of her family—the grandmother repeatedly calls the Misfit a “good man.” The Misfit, in response, assures her that he is not a good man, and that the only “pleasure” in life is “meanness.” The Misfit is a tortured soul, who believes that the world is out to get him. He also struggles with religious faith; the only time the Misfit gets visibly upset is when he wishes he would have been there to witness Jesus’ miracles or crucifixion.

Despite the surface impression that the Misfit is a sadistic criminal, his actions in the story are rational. At first, the Misfit and his two henchmen help the family with their overturned car. While it is unclear whether the Misfit intended to kill the family from the beginning, one could argue that he did not based on his statement to the grandmother:

it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me.

This suggests that the only reason the Misfit has to murder the family is because of her identification. If the grandmother had’nt suddenly proclaimed the man’s identity, it is possible that the Misfit would have just left the family in the wilderness or perhaps even traded cars with them.

This is further indicated after he shoots the grandmother. When he makes his famous remark about the grandmother being a good woman if someone would have shot her every minute of her life, one of the Misfit’s accomplices says that sounds fun. The Misfit dryly replies, “Shut up, Bobby Lee. It’s no real pleasure in life.” This statement suggests that the Misfit did not enjoy killing the family or the grandmother, but rather sees it as a necessity. Although the Misfit’s morals are not the same as most people, he does seem to have a kind of code for himself.

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In Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the Misfit is an escaped convict who has been in jail for murdering his father. Of course, the Misfit claims that his father "died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu" and that he is innocent. When the grandmother asks the escapee why he thinks he went to jail, though, he says that he can't remember. It is interesting how he describes himself because he mentions many normal life experiences that he has had. For example, the Misfit says that he served in the armed forces, was married twice, and has worked on railroads, on farms, and as an undertaker. These jobs all seem honorable compared to a criminal's life and prison. However, what the Misfit says about himself is different than how he acts. He and his friends kill a young family of four along with the grandmother, which doesn't seem consistent with any type of normal or honorable life. Based on the fact that actions speak louder than words, the Misfit, therefore, is not only a murderer, but he is also a liar to himself and others.

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