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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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Who or what is the real monster in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

My thoughts so far are the grandmother, the penitentiary system (assuming the Misfit was really innocent) or religion, but I can't really formulate good proof and such for any.

Quick answer:

The grandmother is the monster of the story, not only because she is cruel, selfish, and dogmatic but because it takes her death and a meeting with The Misfit to bring about her religious epiphany. O'Connor believed that it takes a strong encounter with evil to bring about real change in people. The old woman was very much like the devil in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." She had all of the qualities of the devil and so many more. I believe that this story was just a test for us readers to see if we were willing to accept what happened or turn away from it. After reading this short story and after reading some of Flannery O'Connor'

Expert Answers

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 Concerning "A Good Man is Hard to Find," first, we need to clear up a misconception.  The Misfit doesn't say he's innocent, and the story doesn't suggest that he is.  He says he can't remember doing what he's supposed to have done.  That's not the same as being innocent.  And he certainly does not act innocently in the story.  Though he is respectful, polite, and in a warped way considerate, he is also self-centered, brutal, and destructive.  He has obviously done some thinking, but his thinking in some ways is still extremely simplistic and warped.  He can certainly be classified as a "monster," if that's what your assignment calls for.

The story, however, is really about the grandmother.  O'Connor believed that Christians like the grandmother are so lost and fallen that the only way for them to be brought back to God's grace is an encounter with a devil-like person.  She is egotistical, self-centered, selfish, ignorant, inconsiderate, dishonest, and sneaky.  The way for her to be reformed is to encounter The Misfit.  Notice that her epiphany, the moment she changes from the dogmatic and simplistic you should pray, you should pray to you're a child of God thinking isn't even when her family is taken off to be killed, but only when she is about to be killed.  She is not a nice human being, to say the least, though I don't know if you'd call her a monster. 

Whether or not her epiphany is genuine or just another ploy to escape death is debatable, but The Misfit accepts it as genuine.  If he is correct, then the grandmother is reformed by her encounter with the "monster," though she is killed almost immediately after. 

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