What are the motivations of the characters in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's probably easiest to focus on the more main characters of the story: the grandmother, Bailey, the two children and, the Misfit.

Flannery O'Connor writes the grandmother as someone who adheres to the moral and traditional values of the south. One of these values is that elders are always listened to and always right. While it may seem like she whining at times, she is asserting what she believes is her right: as the eldest, she should be making the decisions in the family.

Bailey, her son, as the oldest adult male, feels he should be the one in charge. He is the head of the household, and while he wants peace and quiet, he wants to be the one in charge and the one making the decisions. He certainly wants his family to see he is in charge. It's hard for him to do since his mother is there.

The children represent a direct opposition to both the grandmother and Bailey. They are disrespectful to both their grandmother and their father. They don't seem to care about anyone but themselves, and only want some sort of adventure or excitement in their lives.

The Misfit's motivation for acting the way he does comes from the story he tells about his past. He was put in jail for murdering his father, something he doesn't remember doing, but the police insist he did.  The Misfit figured that if he was going to be labeled as a criminal or a "misfit", he'd better fulfill the role.   His character shows the danger of labelling others before getting to know them.

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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