What details suggest that the Misfit has changed his mind about what the true meaning of life is "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the main characters, ironically perhaps, are bound together as they have secrets that have kept them from salvation; also they are bound in themes of guilt and sin.  While the grandmother is redeemed by the words of the Misfit, the grotesque who provides her grace at the moment of violence when she says "You are one of my children," he himself is not redeemed.

For, he has changed his mind completely about the meaning of life. Wearing glasses that make him appear intelligent although he is clearly uneducated, the Misfit steps from a large, black "hearse-like" automobile.  After she recognizes him and continues to talk to him, the Misfit tells the grandmother that his father said,

"it's some that can live their whole life out without asking about it [life] and it's others who has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters.  He's going to be into everything!"

He tells the grandmother that he was a gospel singer for a while, along with many other occupations.  Saying that he was never really a bad boy, the Misfit observes that somewhere

"along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary.  I was buried alive."

At this point he stares steadily at the grandmother.  She tells him to pray, but he says that he could never recall what it was that he had done, even though "they had the papers on me."  He states that a psychiatrist at the penitentiary said that he had killed his father, but he contends that his father died of the epidemic flu, so the doctor lied and he was punished unjustly.  At the grandmother's insistence that Jesus would help him if he prayed, the Misfit declares, "I don't want no hep [help]."

The Misfit has lost faith because the authorities have lied.  He states that it does not matter whether you take a tire or kill a man, you will "just be punished" all the same.  For, "Jesus thrown everything off balance" by having been punished for no crime Himself.  Now he keeps papers, recording what he does and signing it so that the justice system will not be able to convict him for what he has not done.  He calls himself "The Misfit" because he cannot fit his crimes with his punishment.  Continuing, the Misfit says,

"He shouldn't have done it. [allowed Himself to be crucified. ] He thrown everything off balance.  If He did what He said,then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can--by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meannes to him.  No pleasure but meanness."

The Misfit has lost faith and only believes in the depravity of man--"meanness."  He is the doubting Thomas, saying that if he had lived when Jesus did, he would have known and would not be as he is now.  In fact it is these words of his that bring the grandmother to an epiphany as she recognizes her own depravity.

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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