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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor
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What are two examples of foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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When the family stops at Red Sammy’s BBQ place for lunch, Red Sammy and the grandmother talk over their shared values and disdain for contemporary attitudes and mores. Despite the fact that Red Sammy does not seem like a “good man”—he speaks harshly to his wife (and he does so in front of strangers), he keeps a monkey tied to a tree, and he is dirty and unkempt—he has lots of ideas about what makes a good man and what does not. He says to the grandmother, “These days you don’t know who to trust,” and the grandmother replies, “People are certainly not nice like they used to be.” These would seem to foreshadow what happens later with the Misfit and his cronies. One would hope that anyone stopping by a car that’s been in a wreck is doing so to offer help, but this is not the case; the family cannot trust the men who stop, and those men are certainly not good.

In the car, as they are driving, the grandmother asks to stop at a house she once knew, and she entices the children with a mention of secret hiding holes and legendary treasures. Her ploy works and her son agrees, despite the fact that he really, really does not want to stop. He says, “All right [...], but get this: this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time.” His insistence that there will be no more stopping seems to foreshadow the fact that there will be some other, unplanned stop to come. And, of course, we know there is.

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Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" contains foreshadowing, or hints of impending danger. Two examples of such foreshadowing related to the horror of the story's ending are the following:

1. In early passages of the narrative, the reader is informed that the Misfit is heading toward Florida, the same state toward which the family is going.

The grandmother does not want to go to Florida. To deter her son Bailey from taking his family to Florida on their vacation, she shows Bailey an article in the local newspaper. She tells her son,

"Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida, and you read here what it says he did to these people...."

Further, because she wants to go to Tennesse, the grandmother reminds Bailey that the children have already been to Florida, suggesting that he and his wife should take a trip somewhere else. Her grandchildren taunt her. The boy, John Wesley, says that she should just stay home. The grandmother counters, "Yes, and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?"

(The family does head toward Florida and the grandmother's question to John Wesley foreshadows their encounter with the Misfit.) 

2. Later, after the family has left the highway and turned onto a dirt road, the grandmother startles her hidden cat, and Pitty Sing springs upon Bailey's shoulders as he drives the car. He loses control of the automobile, and the car turns over. Everyone survives, but the accident shakes them. The mother says hopefully, "Maybe a car will come along." As a car does appear on the road, the grandmother waves both arms to attract it. Three men get out of the car.

"Look here," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a terrible predicament! We're in...."

The grandmother shrieked...."You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at once."

"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, "but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me."

(This verbal exchange foreshadows the tragic events that soon transpire.)

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"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor has several examples of foreshadowing in it. Foreshadowing is when an author uses hints to suggest certain plot developments that will occur later on in the story. 

The first example of foreshadowing in this short story, is when the grandmother is reading about the Misfit in in the newspaper at the beginning of the story. She then says that she "wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that a loose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did." Ironically, it is per her directions that lead them off the main road and right into the hands of the Misfit and his cronies. The discussion of the Misfit picks up later between Red Sam and the grandmother who discuss the his prison escape.

The second example of foreshadowing is a bit less obvious. Throughout the entire story, there is death imagery. At the beginning, as the Grandmother gets ready to go on the trip, she dresses in a way that is foreshadowing of her own death. She says she dresses so that "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady." While on the highway, they pass five or six graves fenced in on the side of the road indicative of the deaths of the six passengers in the car. Finally, as they see the Misfit's car, it is described as a hearse - a vehicle in which the dead are carried. These images all foreshadow the death of the grandmother and her family. 

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