What is one of the conflicts in "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," and how is this conflict resolved?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. The main conflict in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" exists within the hypocritical grandmother, who fancies herself a Christian woman. It is only when she comes into contact with the Misfit that she realizes her own sinfulness.

2. The conflict is resolved near the end of the story. The author writers that the grandmother's "head cleared for an instant." At that moment, the grandmother recognizes that she, too, is with sin, uttering her truest words to the Misfit, "Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" 

Author Flannery O'Connor writes that her narratives are about "The action of grace in territory held largely by the devil." Certainly, then, in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the grandmother leads her family into such territory held by the devil since it is she who insists selfishly that her son Bailey detour so that they can visit an old plantation outside of Toomsbsboro, exciting the children enough that they plead and scream and kick the back of Bailey's seat until he gives in and turns down a dirt road. After this, the accident occurs as the cat, whom the grandmother has hidden in a valise and brought along against Bailey's wishes, jumps onto Bailey's shoulder when the grandmother starts and he loses control of the car.

Once they are stranded after their car accident, the Misfit and others soon arrive, and the grandmother mistakenly admits that she knows who he is. But she tries to insist that she knows he is a good person, in the hope that he will not harm her and her family. Finally, after her family has all been taken off and killed, the grandmother has an epiphany because she sees in the face of the Misfit her own sins:

...the grandmother's head cleared for an instant....and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!"

One critic writes that these are the "truest words she has ever uttered." Certainly, this is the grandmother's moment of saving grace that comes from the violence done to her. Significantly, she is shot the religious number of three times, and she collapses with her legs folded beneath in a symbolic cross, and her sins absolved. Indicative of this resolution are the words of the Misfit, who observes,

"She would of been a good woman...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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