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

A Good Man Is Hard to Find book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Please explain the irony in the story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,224 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Flannery O’Connor utilizes irony throughout her classic short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” in various ways.

Situational irony occurs when the grandmother tries to persuade Bailey against traveling to Florida in an attempt to avoid the Misfit—but she ends up directing her family into the murderer's path by convincing Bailey to take a back road to see an old house she remembers.

The grandmother's perception of others and judgmental nature are also ironic. The grandmother inaccurately judges individuals based on their appearances and superficial behaviors while lacking true insight into morality and ethics. She calls Red Sammy a "good man" simply because he gave two strangers free gas, which does not necessarily make him a good man. Ironically, she also refers to Misfit as a good man because of his calm demeanor and favorable appearance. Despite her assurance that she can judge a good man from a bad person, the grandmother fails to recognize that the Misfit is a sociopath and ruthless killer.

It is also ironic that the grandmother feels empowered to judge others by her narrow definition without exercising or examining her own morals. For example, the grandmother uses racial slurs, hides her cat from Bailey (who would not approve of its presence), and also conceals the fact that she misremembered the location of the estate where Bailey was driving. It is also ironic that the second the grandmother experiences an epiphany and attempts to show compassion for the Misfit, she is rewarded with a bullet in the chest.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial



epollock | Student

The plot of the story is grounded in situational irony, a conflict between ordinary folks on the one hand, and both chance and evil on the other. The forces of chance are built up by an almost overwhelming set of coincidences that lead in a straight line to disaster. These are:a. the decision to go to Florida,b. the decision of the grandmother to go too even thoughshe says at first that she will stay home,c. her hiding the cat in the car because she doesn’t wantto leave it behind,d. her remembering the house she wanted to see, and excitingthe children by making up a “secret panel” (paragraph 45),e. her realization of her error just at the wrong moment,f. her upsetting the basket with the cat in it,g. the cat’s jumping on Bailey’s neck, thereby causingthe wreck that makes the family vulnerable, andh. the Misfit’s being nearby when the accident occurs.