Why does O'Connor use similar details in describing The Misfit, Red Sammy, and Hiram in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flannery O'Connor, who wrote of a "Christ-haunted South," suggests that characters are bound to one another in their imperfect humanity.  Since all these characters are morally flawed, there are, then, similarities in them.  O'Connor once wrote,

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.

Throughout the story, the grandmother waffles philosophically, trying to use Jesus and speak of how there are no good men anymore as a way of uplifting her spiritual status.  Like her and many others, a self-righteous Red Sam parrots her words, "A good man is hard to find." As symbolic of his evil, in a grotesque and filthy gesture, he catches flies on himself and "bites each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy."  (Of course, Beelezebub is Lord of the flies!) 

In another parody of an action of a religious action, Hiriam lifts the grandmother's son Bailey thusly,

Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arms...

This action, in context with the Misfit's description of Jesus's dying on the cross, hints at the lifting of Christ from the cross, a sacrificial Victim for man's sins.  Bailey is a sacrificial victim for his mother's outburst "I know you.  You're the Misfit."  And, much as Red Sam carelessly kills the flies, Hiram will easily shot Bailey and his family.

Like the family, the Misfit feels, at least, that he, too, has been a sacrificial victim to society that has been thrown off by Jesus who Himself died for no crime:  "Jesus thrown everything off balance."  In fact each of the characters mentioned, the Misfit, Red Sammy, and Hiram, share a depravity in O'Connor's story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Read the study guide:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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