Allusion and irony are the two significant literary devices employed by Flannery O'Connor in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Allusions are references to other works, historical figures, or historical events within a text. One of the earliest ones in this story is when the grandmother refers to Gone...
Allusion and irony are the two significant literary devices employed by Flannery O'Connor in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Allusions are references to other works, historical figures, or historical events within a text. One of the earliest ones in this story is when the grandmother refers to Gone with the Wind, a novel about the American South before, during, and after the Civil War. The reference reveals that she has romanticized notions about the South and her place in it as a "lady." However, the bigger allusions are to the New Testament, which the Misfit discusses when he has the grandmother and her family cornered. He refers specifically to the story in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, a reference meant to evoke the grandmother's (and possibly the Misfit's own) spiritual rebirth.
Irony might play an even bigger role than allusion, though it does tie in with the story's references to the New Testament. The ironic part about "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is that the grandmother achieves spiritual transformation through her encounter with a violent criminal. She is someone who fancies herself as a "lady" and a good person, despite her flaws: she does not take responsibility for her mistakes, she is a snob, and she holds racist opinions. However, when she meets the Misfit, she begins to pity and then identify with him. She sees him as one of her children rather than as a monster totally unlike her at all. From O'Connor's Catholic perspective, she is essentially realizing that all people are sinners and deserving of compassion.
The irony is that the grandmother only comes to this moment of grace before she is shot to death— she is unable to make use of it in life or with her own loved ones, who have also been killed. When the Misfit tells his partners in crime that the grandmother "would have been a good woman ... if there had been someone to shoot her every minute of her life," he means that the grandmother only could have come to her major transformation under such duress and not in her ordinary life. O'Connor is similarly suggesting that God and grace tend to be found in life's most horrific and vulnerable moments rather than in the respectable, civilized world the grandmother reveres.