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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Is the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" a round or flat character?

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The grandmother appears to change as the story progresses. If that appearance is indeed correct, then she could definitely be described as a round character. The most important change that seems to take place is in relation to religion. She appears to be a Christian but only in the outward, conventional sense. She certainly doesn't display the milk of human kindness when it comes to dealing with other people. Just before The Misfit shoots her, she gives the impression of skepticism relating to Jesus's ability to raise the dead. But as this was in direct response to something The Misfit said, we cannot be sure that she really means it or she's just trying to placate him:

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He thown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can -- by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

What's never made clear is whether or not the grandmother experienced a genuine epiphany in her final moments on Earth. Perhaps she did; but then perhaps she was just desperately trying to talk her way out of trouble. If it was the latter, then her character hasn't really changed all that much. All that's happened is that another unpleasant side to her personality has been revealed, to go with all the many others we've already witnessed.

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As he is presented in the story, Bailey is most certainly a flat character. He is uncomplicated and he does not undergo any significant change in the story. 

Because the grandmother is set in her ways, readers might be inclined to conclude that she is uncomplicated and one-dimensional. But she is in fact a round character. She is more complex than her nagging behavior lets on. She portrays herself as a good Christian woman, but she shows a racist side. She has good and bad intentions. She seems to nag her son and his family, but in her defense, she is poorly mistreated by her grandchildren. O'Connor points this out quite bluntly after the car accident: 

“But nobody’s killed,” June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to her head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle and the violet spray hanging off the side. 

June says this with "disappointment." The grandmother brings the cat that causes the accident, but she couldn't have foreseen this. She proclaims the Misfit's name when she recognizes him. This also puts them in a worse situation, but she could not have foreseen this either. She is presented in a largely unflattering way in the story and this is intentional. The reader will consider if she is a "good" woman. The very notion suggests a "flat" type of character: one only capable of goodness and is therefore uncomplicated, unchanging: flat. But the grandmother is not wholly good nor is she wholly bad. She is good and bad. And she shows the ability to change at the end of the story. Whether that change is a selfish strategy for survival or a legitimate religious awakening, she does show that change. 

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