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

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Examples and analysis of foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Summary:

Foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" includes the grandmother's mention of The Misfit, which hints at the family's eventual encounter with him. Additionally, the grandmother's choice to bring her cat, despite knowing it could cause trouble, foreshadows the car accident. These elements build suspense and hint at the story's tragic conclusion.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are two examples of foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

When the family stops at Red Sammy’s BBQ place for lunch, Red Sammy and the grandmother talk over their shared values and disdain for contemporary attitudes and mores. Despite the fact that Red Sammy does not seem like a “good man”—he speaks harshly to his wife (and he does so in front of strangers), he keeps a monkey tied to a tree, and he is dirty and unkempt—he has lots of ideas about what makes a good man and what does not. He says to the grandmother, “These days you don’t know who to trust,” and the grandmother replies, “People are certainly not nice like they used to be.” These would seem to foreshadow what happens later with the Misfit and his cronies. One would hope that anyone stopping by a car that’s been in a wreck is doing so to offer help, but this is not the case; the family cannot trust the men who stop, and those men are certainly not good.

In the car, as they are driving, the grandmother asks to stop at a house she once knew, and she entices the children with a mention of secret hiding holes and legendary treasures. Her ploy works and her son agrees, despite the fact that he really, really does not want to stop. He says, “All right [...], but get this: this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time.” His insistence that there will be no more stopping seems to foreshadow the fact that there will be some other, unplanned stop to come. And, of course, we know there is.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are two examples of foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" contains foreshadowing, or hints of impending danger. Two examples of such foreshadowing related to the horror of the story's ending are the following:

1. In early passages of the narrative, the reader is informed that the Misfit is heading toward Florida, the same state toward which the family is going.

The grandmother does not want to go to Florida. To deter her son Bailey from taking his family to Florida on their vacation, she shows Bailey an article in the local newspaper. She tells her son,

"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...."

Further, because she wants to go to Tennesse, the grandmother reminds Bailey that the children have already been to Florida, suggesting that he and his wife should take a trip somewhere else. Her grandchildren taunt her. The boy, John Wesley, says that she should just stay home. The grandmother counters, "Yes, and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?"

(The family does head toward Florida and the grandmother's question to John Wesley foreshadows their encounter with the Misfit.) 

2. Later, after the family has left the highway and turned onto a dirt road, the grandmother startles her hidden cat, and Pitty Sing springs upon Bailey's shoulders as he drives the car. He loses control of the automobile, and the car turns over. Everyone survives, but the accident shakes them. The mother says hopefully, "Maybe a car will come along." As a car does appear on the road, the grandmother waves both arms to attract it. Three men get out of the car.

"Look here," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a terrible predicament! We're in...."

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

"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, "but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me."

(This verbal exchange foreshadows the tragic events that soon transpire.)

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are two examples of foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor has several examples of foreshadowing in it. Foreshadowing is when an author uses hints to suggest certain plot developments that will occur later on in the story. 

The first example of foreshadowing in this short story, is when the grandmother is reading about the Misfit in in the newspaper at the beginning of the story. She then says that she "wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that a loose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did." Ironically, it is per her directions that lead them off the main road and right into the hands of the Misfit and his cronies. The discussion of the Misfit picks up later between Red Sam and the grandmother who discuss the his prison escape.

The second example of foreshadowing is a bit less obvious. Throughout the entire story, there is death imagery. At the beginning, as the Grandmother gets ready to go on the trip, she dresses in a way that is foreshadowing of her own death. She says she dresses so that "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady." While on the highway, they pass five or six graves fenced in on the side of the road indicative of the deaths of the six passengers in the car. Finally, as they see the Misfit's car, it is described as a hearse - a vehicle in which the dead are carried. These images all foreshadow the death of the grandmother and her family. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are two examples of foreshadowing in the story?

The first example is found in the first paragraph, when the grandmother says:
"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. Just you read it. 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."

They do run into him, and the children are along, and it isn't good.

A second example comes a bit later, in this exchange:
Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the counter and hurry up with these people's order. His khaki trousers reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat down at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. "You can't win," he said. "You can't win," and he wiped his sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. "These days you don't know who to trust," he said. "Ain't that the truth?"

"People are certainly not nice like they used to be," said the grandmother.

They aren't, as the Misfit shows.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does "A Good Man is Hard to Find" use foreshadowing? Provide three examples.

Since your essay has to do with foreshadowing, an effective thing to do would be to cite, first and foremost, one quote from the story which tells you (as the reader) that something bad was about to take place in the story.

The central idea of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is that fate is inevitable and that we are all subjected to it. This being said, ask yourself what events happened in the story that shows how this is a true statement.

Start with the first line in the story:

The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida

Looking back after reading the story, you know that this is foreshadowing because it almost seems as if she knew that "something else" was going to happen, or was supposed to happen that day.

The fact that she did not want to go to Florida, and instead she wanted to go somewhere else, is effective for the author to include two things:  a) establish that the grandmother was not willing to stay alone in Georgia for fear of this escaped convict called "The Misfit", b) use the presence of the grandmother in the car as the cause of the detour, and the cause of the accident that leads the family to its ultimate fate. Therefore, "not wanting to go to Florida" already causes three separate events all leading to the fatal encounter with The Misfit, and thus also leading to the end.

Aside from these three factors, there is also the second mention of The Misfit at Red Sammy's Barbecue. The description of the man as someone willing to rob a place even if it had only "2 cents" shows that The Misfit can do anything for whatever reason he wishes. The fear that the grandmother expresses so intensely in her discourse regarding this man seems almost as if she were, unconsciously, calling his name in an act of self-sabotage.

Finally, there is the detour that changes everything. Why detouring? Why listening to grandmother? Is it a wise thing to change a set path? There is something eerie and illogical when people make last minute choices. There is always the element of the unknown, of the "what if", and "what comes next". This Gothic factor gives the foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" a uniquely distinctive tone that works well in moving one event to the next.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does O'Connor use foreshadowing to enhance the meaning of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

A chief way O'Connor uses foreshadowing is through introducing the idea of the Misfit early on. In the first paragraph, as the grandmother is reading the newspaper, she tells her adult son Bailey that the Misfit has escaped from prison:

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.

A short time later, the grandmother asks her grandson what he would do if the Misfit caught him.

These early mentions of the Misfit serve a practical purpose. It makes it seem less fantastical when the family meets up with his band of murderous criminals later in the story. It is unusual for people heading on vacation to have this happen, but the introduction of the idea early on makes it more plausible when it does occur.

It further shows that the grandmother makes some correct assessments. Bailey and the family blow her off as simply wanting to manipulate them into going somewhere other than Florida, but in this case she is right when she says they shouldn't head in the Misfit's direction. She is trying to "deliver them from evil," but they don't listen.

O'Connor foreshadows the Misfit's intersection with the family a second time when the Grandmother mentions him to Red Sammy and his wife as part of a conversation about the world going downhill.

All of this primes readers to accept what is going on when the story takes a turn towards the horrific at the end. It also introduces a theological concept that is important to O'Connor and that she reminds readers of throughout the story: that evil exists in the world and that anyone can encounter it.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is foreshadowing used in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

The early mention of the Misfit, a convicted killer who has escaped from the Federal Penitentiary in Florida, provides an example of foreshadowing. The grandmother, of course, is only using the news about the Misfit to try to convince her son and his wife that the family should not go on vacation to Florida, but rather to Tennessee, where she wants to visit some old friends. However, the grandmother's mention of his name, location, and what would happen to her own conscience if she were to take her children to any place where they might run into him is so specific as to send up red flags for a careful reader. After all, it is the very first paragraph of the story. Despite the grandmother's feelings and warnings, the family still sets out for Florida the next morning.

This foreshadowing seems designed to heighten tension and alert us to the very real possibility that the family could run into danger. As we, the readers, await this danger, it creates tension for us and affects the mood of the story. If we just learned that the family was leaving on vacation, the mood might be quite light and carefree. However, as a result of the grandmother's mention of the Misfit, in part, the mood feels much darker and more ominous.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does O'Connor employ foreshadowing in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

I like the way in which this question points towards the way in which skilled writers leave no words unused. What can seem like incidental details are actually woven into the plot and theme of such fiction, and part of our appreciation of such texts is increased by the way that we have been tricked into believing that part of the text is not really significant, whilst in reality it is highly significant.

One example of foreshadowing that comes at the beginning of the story refers to the use of the Misfit by the grandmother to try and persuade her son to get him to take her and his family on holiday to Tennessee:

"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. Just you read it. 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."

Of course, ironically, this text foreshadows the fate of the grandmother and her family as they run straight into the Misfit, who treats them just like he treated the other people that she urges her son to read about. Note the way too that the grandmother is described as they set out on their holiday. Her elaborate attire is chosen with the sole purpose of identifying her as a lady in case of her death:

In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

Of course, this text foreshadows her own death, and the way that she will end up lying on a road dressed in her full glory. These are but two examples of foreshadowing in the text. Hopefully based on these examples, you will be able to re-read the story and find some more. Good luck!

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some examples of foreshadowing in "A Good Man Is Hard To Find"?

Foreshadowing is when one event or reference in a narrative hints at what is to come later on in the story. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" has a few examples of this literary technique.

Firstly, the grandmother mentions the Misfit before he makes his first appearance. She reads about the Misfit's prison break in a news article and shares the information with the rest of the family during their road trip. This article provides both exposition regarding the Misfit's background (he is a dangerous criminal who recently escaped from a Florida prison and is currently at large) and foreshadows the family's fatal run-in with him on the road.

Secondly, the deaths of the family members are foreshadowed before they meet the criminals. During an extended description of the grandmother's wardrobe, the narrator ends the section with this ominous statement:

In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

This not only highlights the grandmother's superficial nature, it also foreshadows her ultimate fate. She literally will be dead on the side of the road by the conclusion of the story, though by then, she will be utterly transformed due to her encounter with the Misfit.

During a description of the family's travels, they also happen to pass a few graves in the middle of a cotton field. There are specifically "five or six" of them, which is roughly equal to the amount of people in the family. This too foreshadows the violent fate of these characters.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some of the foreshadowed events in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor?

The main foreshadowed event in this story is the family's--and most particularly--the Grandmother's encounter with the Misfit, who is mentioned by the Grandmother in the first paragraph of the story. The family's death is another event foreshadowed by the mention of the Misfit. The Grandmother will mention him a second time--quite a lot for a story of this length--when the family stops for lunch at the diner while traveling toward their vacation destination. By the time the car ends up in a ditch in a deserted area and the Misfit and his men appear, we as an audience are not surprised to see him, unsettling as this may be, and not surprised that his intentions are malevolent. Further, since the Grandmother has been the one most obsessed with him, we are not surprised that they have the most interaction, and at the very end, a brief moment of connection. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on