dotted outline of a black cat sitting within a basket in front of an older woman wearing a sundress

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor
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What is the grandmother’s conflict in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

The grandmother's conflict in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is with society. She dislikes modern values and believes that people are less nice, less trustworthy, and less honorable than they used to be. She continues to act like "a lady" and take pride in the status that this used to confer. In the end, however, her adherence to flawed "traditional" values helps lead to her downfall.

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The grandmother's main conflict in the story is with society. She is unhappy with the way men and women act, and she idealizes the past when she believes that men acted like honorable and honest gentlemen and women acted like ladies. In contrast with her memories, her son Bailey is...

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The grandmother's main conflict in the story is with society. She is unhappy with the way men and women act, and she idealizes the past when she believes that men acted like honorable and honest gentlemen and women acted like ladies. In contrast with her memories, her son Bailey is rude and gruff toward her and her daughter-in-law. "The children's mother" is described as a "young woman in slacks" (as though wearing slacks is a criminal offense). In fact, she wears slacks again when the family embarks on its road trip, though the grandmother wears a dress with matching hat and gloves, a little "purple spray of cloth violets" pinned at her collar. The grandmother feels certain that, if the family were to have an accident, "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady."

When they stop at Red Sammy's barbecue, the proprietor mentions that one cannot "know who to trust" these days, and the grandmother agrees that "People are certainly not nice like they used to be." She identifies Red Sammy as a "good man" because he trusts other people and expects them to be trustworthy and behave honorably. She does not like the way people act, and she wishes for a return to "traditional" values (which, incidentally, include racism—see her word choices when referring to an African American child—and sexism—she likes Red Sammy though he is really terrible toward his wife) because her status as a lady seems to have afforded her some measure of privilege then and it does not anymore.

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