A Good Man Is Hard to Find Questions and Answers
by Flannery O’Connor

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What is the meaning of this quote below from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor? "She would have been a good woman ... if there had been someone there to shoot her every minute of her life"?

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At the end of the story, the Misfit and his criminal associates have dispatched the rest of the family, and The Misfit has taken the bright yellow shirt with blue parrots that Bailey had been wearing. The only two that are left are Grandmother and The Misfit. Grandmother is talking with The Misfit the whole while trying to flatter her way into his good graces so that he spares her life.

Grandmother is a complaining, nagging sort of person who apparently unceasingly causes trouble for others in her family through her selfishness and carelessness, trouble such as insisting they detour to visit an old plantation in Georgia that is in reality in ... Tennessee. At the moment that she realizes that The Misfit is going to take her life also, she stops being self-centered; she stops her incessant barrage of words; she reaches out to someone else in some show of compassion:

She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out ... she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," meaning Jesus will help you,

When Grandmother reaches out to touch The Misfit saying, "You're one of my own children!" she confirms the hint that comes earlier, "his face was as familiar to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall who he was," and we realize Grandmother is in fact the Misfit's mother.

It is because she is his mother that he can indirectly assert that she wasn't much of a good woman and that the shock of facing a violent end to her life has forced her out of her harmful selfishness and, therefore: "she would of been a good woman ... if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." In other words, if she had had a similar shock every moment of her life, she would have been sincere, caring and thoughtful--as she was for a moment just before her end--instead of complaining, nagging, spiteful and unceasingly troublesome.

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