What is the main conflict in this story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main conflict is the inner conflict of the grandmother, who mistakenly perceives herself as a good woman and superior to others.  For instance, she feels it incumbent upon herself to instruct her grandchildren to be "more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else" while she then remarks upon what a "cute little pickaninny" is standing outside the door of a shack that Bailey, her son, drives past. In another example, the grandmother tells the children a story of her youth, in which she

would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago....

Clearly, she feels herself deserving of such a man.  In the filling station/dance hall, she talks with the proprietor, commiserating that "a good man is hard to find," implying that she is, of course, a good person herself.

However, the grandmother does admit to herself some that she is not honest.  When she wants to see the plantation house, she fabricates a story about it:

She said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found..."

Of course, her selfishness puts the family in the predicament that they find themselves after the grandmother's cat causes Bailey to lose control of the car and the Misfit and his friends appear on the scene. And, it is only at the point of a gun that the grandmother relinquishes her hypocrisy and perceives herself as a sinner, too.

"Why, you're one of my babies! You're one of my own children"

she exclaims as the Misfit stands over her, wearing her son's Bailey's shirt. Finally, as she finds redemption, the grandmother realizes that she has not led a good life and she is not superior to others and her inner conflict is resolved.