What is the climax of the story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?
The tension in the story rises higher and higher as we, and the grandmother, realize that her family is being murdered by the Misfit's henchmen, one by one. The Misfit begins to tell his story, how he cannot remember being a "'bad boy,'" but that "'somewheres along the line [he] done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary.'" She tells him he should have prayed. He continues, explaining that he cannot remember whatever he was supposed to have done. Again, she tells him to pray for Jesus's help. Once she's alone with the Misfit, she realizes she's lost her voice and can only stammer, "'Jesus. Jesus.'"
Suddenly, though, the Misfit turns her words on her and blames Jesus for what's wrong in the world, for the unfairness that's happened to him in his life. When he becomes emotional, almost crying, "His voice . . . about to crack," the grandmother experiences a moment of grace. Instead of seeing herself as superior to him, better than him—the way she's described just about everyone throughout the entire story, as though only she remembers what gentlemen and ladies should act like—she momentarily recognizes his humanity. In this moment, the Misfit isn't a criminal or a bad man or someone beneath her socially; instead, she sees him as someone who could be her son, someone who deserves the nurturing and care he did not receive in his own youth.
She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.
This is the story's climax. Until now, we aren't sure if her arguments and claims will work, or if the gang will shoot her as they've done everyone else. It seems as though the Misfit is used to hearing much of what the grandmother had said earlier, that he should pray, that he must have made some mistake at some point, as these comments didn't shock him at all. However, when the grandmother's tune changes—not as a result of her attempts to manipulate him but because she truly experiences a moment of clarity and grace wherein she understood the connection between them as human beings—it is too much for him. Without a thought, he shoots her. This is both the moment of the highest tension but also when we finally know how the conflict resolves.
The climax is the highest point of tension in a story when everything hangs in the balance, but the resolution has not yet come. In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the climax comes when the Misfit, his gang having taken away the grandmother's son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, has a conversation with her in a ditch. She is terrified, realizing, as she hears gun shots and screams from the woods that the gang is killing her family. She knows that the Misfit probably plans to murder her. She keeps talking, hoping that she can somehow wiggle out of the situation. She appeals to Misfit on the basis of being a lady, suggesting to him to it would be inappropriate for a "good man" like him to kill a person like her. She also offers him money. When that doesn't work, she appeals to him through religion, telling him he should pray to Jesus. Finally, in a moment of grace, she sees him as her own son:
... the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.
That is the climax of the story. Right after that, the Misfit springs back and shoots her three times. She dies, sending the story to its resolution.
The climax, or the highest point of action, comes when Bailey, the grandmother's son, wrecks the car. At the grandmother's urging, and despite Bailey's reluctance, Bailey turns the car around to go visit an old plantation home which his mother says will be educational for them (and the children want to see because of a promised "secret panel").
However, when miles pass and the grandmother begins to doubt her memory of the location, she becomes agitated and accidentally sets off a series of mishaps: her jerking bumps a valise (a suitcase) which upset the cat, Pitty-Sing, who jumps on Bailey and makes him steer improperly. The car then tumbles over and lands "in a gulch off the side of the road."
This sets the climax into motion. Passersby who happen to see the accident come to the scene, but not, as the grandmother expects, to their aid. Instead, the pair are the escaped convicts the grandmother had read about and discussed with Red Sammy's wife in the barbecue stand. The outlaws have no other intent but to rob and then kill, which leads to the startling conclusion.