What are some of the more infamous quotations from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and the meanings behind them?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O'Connor's story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," has quotes that I find impressive based upon the context of the story, though I'm not sure they are more infamous or not.

The grandmother's use of the name of the murderer roaming the country side, heading toward Florida, is ironic in that she, as well as the others in her family, all seem to be misfits:

Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people...I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did.

There is further irony—and a dark, frightening kind—in that it is the grandmother who sends the station wagon down the deserted road that delivers them all to their deaths.

Again, there is something unsettling in the grandmother's comment about the little black child they pass—living in poverty—that the old woman thinks is so quaint, completely missing the fact that the child is not "cute" in his destitution…still, she thinks he—in that setting—would make a wonderful picture.

Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!…Wouldn't that make a picture, now?…Little n***ers in the country don't have things like we do. If I could, I'd paint that picture.

The grandmother has no desire to capture the dire circumstances the half-dressed child lives in, to share with others, but (disturbingly) finds something charming about what she sees, enough to want to capture it, as if it were a beautiful landscape.

The distressing condition of the family's lack of social skills (with each other and others) is obvious from the beginning, found in the disrespectful way the children speak to their grandmother and people they meet—specifically, at "Red Sammy's."

"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over the counter. "Would you like to come be my little girl?"

"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!" and she ran back to the table.

"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely.

I find it amusing that the woman (Sammy's wife), who June Star (the little girl) finds so "beneath her," is actually much more civilized than the child. This is yet another form of irony.

Another ominous segment of the story is when the grandmother realizes that she has sent her son driving down the wrong road, looking for a house that isn't even in Georgia, but in Tennessee.

"It's not much farther," the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's shoulder.

The grandmother is a terrible know-it-all, right from the story's beginning. It's amazing that her son, Bailey, even listens to her anymore. There is dark humor here, as well, as the cat jumps onto Bailey's shoulder and the car is wrecked (much to the delight of the kids).

Lastly, there is the portentous comment that the grandmother makes when they do, in fact, meet The Misfit. Too foolish to be believed, she blurts:

"You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at once!"

And thus, the grandmother seals the doom of not only herself, but her entire family.



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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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