dotted outline of a black cat sitting within a basket in front of an older woman wearing a sundress

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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Does the family portrait matter after the characters cross paths with an indiscriminate murder in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

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Throughout the narrative of O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the most salient characteristic of the grandmother is her selfishness.  In fact, she has trapped herself in her petty and selfish world that ignores the wishes and concerns of others.  Because of this spiritually stultifying selfishness, the grandmother overlooks chances for connecting with her family. For, she ignores her daughter-in-law and harasses her son with her personal demands and by hiding her cat in a basket in the car .

This portrait of the family does, in fact, play into the encounter with the Misfit and his fellow criminals.  In her selfishness, the grandmother condemns the entire family when she exclaims in a perverse act of pride her recognition of the escape criminal,

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

If the grandmother were loving and concerned for her family, she would not shout out the Misfit's name. Further, she pays no attention to what the men are doing with Bailey and his family, instead she

...reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand.  She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground.

While she watches her insignificant hat, Bailey and his family are dragged into the woods; only when Bailey calls to her mother, that she becomes aware of danger, "'Bailey Boy!' the grandmother called in a tragic voice." Clearly, the failure of the grandmother to interact unselfishly with her son and his family produces the tragic situation in the grandmother finds herself.

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