In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what role does the BBQ episode play?
Similar to the grandmother, who calls herself a lady but actually behaves pretty terribly, Red Sammy calls himself "a good man." He does this because he sells gas on credit to boys who work at the mill. However, he is actually quite dislikable: he is dirty and unkempt, keeps a little monkey chained to a tree, and exhibits nasty behavior to his wife, ordering her around and belittling her. Listening to these two people — the manipulative grandmother and the man who demeans his wife and makes her do all the work — talk about how much better things used to be is ironic. Neither of them is that great; so if they are the remnants of this formerly great society they belong to, then it must not have been too wonderful. Stopping at the restaurant means the grandmother gets to talk to someone who shares her views, as her son, his wife, and their kids will not tolerate such a conversation with her. It also allows us to witness the irony of a couple of jerks who insist that everyone but them stinks.
At this barbecue restaurant, the grandmother tells Red Sammy, "'It isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust...And I don't count nobody out of that, not nobody.'" She says this as though there is not a single trustworthy individual in the world today except her. And this highlights her own character given the later development when she manipulates her grandchildren to get what she wants. She does this knowing that her son will not be willing to stray from their route just to please her and see an old house. Then, she realizes that she has directed them down a wrong road, but she does not want to tell them this. In other words, she lies. And her lie of omission actually makes it possible for the interaction with the Misfit to occur.
This scene, framed by details of the monkey smart enough to avoid potentially cruel children, primarily offers character development of the grandmother and provides the story's title. Initially the grandmother tries to show her "naturally sunny disposition" (according to her) by asking Bailey to dance to "The Tennessee Waltz"; when he refuses, she sways and pretends to dance in her chair. Later she "hiss[es]" at June Star for being rude to Red Sam's wife. Both of these behaviors show the grandmother's emphasis on appearance.
We see more evidence of the old woman's inherent sense of superiority in her conversation with Red Sammy as they bemoan the lack of good people in the world. He, however, is "a good man" because he let some mill workers charge the gas they bought though he doubts they'll be able to pay him. Red Sammy notes "A good man is hard to find.... Everything is getting terrible."
Next she brings up the news about the Misfit, ominously reminding us of someone clearly not a good man. Red Sam's wife even declares the Misfit is likely to "attack this place right here" in an exaggerated response. Then the grandmother demonstrates her intolerance because she believes "Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now," referring to foreign aid. Her focus on appearance and prejudice are further revealed in this short scene.
Red Sammy is the owner of "Red Sammy's Famous BBQ," the restaurant where the grandmother, her son, Bailey, grandson John Wesley, and her granddaughter June Star, stop for lunch on their way to Florida.
While waiting for their lunch, the grandmother has a conversation with Red Sammy and his wife. The two discuss their distrust of people in general, how much things have changed since they were young, and how, as Sammy says, "A good man is hard to find. Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more."
In addition to bemoaning the loss of the old days, Sammy's wife brings up the story about the dangerous "Misfit" who has escaped the Federal Penitentiary, the same account which begins O'Connor's story. Later, after the car accident, it is the "Misfit" they encounter, whom they believe has stopped to render aid. Still wanting to believe that there was "a good man" in all men, the grandmother pleads with the Misfit to reclaim the good in him, to no avail. She and her family are murdered.
The episode at Red Sammy's