In literature, a story's plot progresses through several stages. These stages are the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. A climax is when a story's plot progression reaches a turning point from which there can be no return. In Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the climax occurs when the grandmother's cat escapes and causes the family's car to fall into a ditch.
To realize the full impact of this climax, we will plot the story's main plot points.
Exposition: A family plans on traveling to Florida, but their grandmother wishes to go to Tennessee. She tries to convince her family not to go to Florida by telling them of a recently escaped criminal.
Rising Action: The family travels to Florida anyway, and the grandmother brings her cat. While traveling, the grandmother convinces her son to take a detour to visit an old house she knows.
Climax: The grandmother's cat escapes and causes the family car to fall into a ditch. While stranded, the escaped convict–known as The Misfit–shows up.
Falling Action: The Misfit intimidates the family into doing what he asks; he kills them one by one in the woods.
Denouement: The grandmother tries to save herself by convincing The Misfit that he is a good person. He shoots her anyway.
As we see in this plot progression, once the family's car is wrecked and the Misfit shows up, they are unable to continue on their original path. This is a point of no return, signaling the moment as the climax.