The similarities and contrasts between the grandmother’s conversations with Red Sammy and with The Misfit are very important in Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” O’Connor obviously created the two conversations so that each would illuminate the other. Here are some points to consider:
- When the grandmother tells Red Sam that he is a good man, he instantly agrees, thereby illustrating his shallowness and pride:
“Yes’m. I suppose so,” Red Sam said as if he were struck with this answer.
However, when the grandmother tries to tell The Misfit that he is a good man, he responds quite differently than Red Sam had responded:
“Nome, I aint a good man,” The Misfit said after a second as if he had considered her statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither.”
The Misfit is a far more thoughtful character than Red Sammy. He doesn’t speak in clichés, as Red Sammy and the grandmother do. He is aware that he is capable of evil, and thus he lacks the smug complacency that both Red Sammy and the grandmother exhibit. The grandmother cannot flatter The Misfit or play to his pride, as she so easily does with Red Sammy.
- Red Sammy invariably agrees with the grandmother, as when he says, “A good man is hard to find.” The Misfit, by contrast, seems almost tortured by the fact that he did not personally witness, with his own eyes, the genuine goodness of Jesus Christ, as exemplified by Christ’s ability to raise the dead:
“I wisht I had of been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.”
Red Sammy is quite satisfied with himself as he is. The Misfit senses that he could have been – and still might be – a better person than he is. Red Sammy, like the grandmother, is complacent; The Misfit, for all his faults, is not.
- Red Sammy and the grandmother simply reaffirm one another’s shared beliefs. The Misfit, in contrast, challenges the grandmother’s beliefs, and, ironically, by unexpectedly reaching out to The Misfit in love, the grandmother challenges, shakes, and shatters many of The Misfit’s own assumptions. The Misfit kills the grandmother’s body, he cannot harm her soul, which is all that really matters to O'Connor. The grandmother serves as an instrument of God’s grace by which The Misfit’s own soul may – may – be eventually transformed.