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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How does the grandmother cause trouble in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the grandmother gets the family in trouble a couple times. First, she is pretty directly responsible for the car accident they have. She hides her cat in the car, against Bailey's wishes, and then she upsets the cat with her feet, causing it to leap onto Bailey's shoulder, causing the accident. Later, she identifies The Misfit, making him unable to let the family go. His friends kill them all.

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The grandmother actually gets the family into trouble a couple of times. First, she insists on sneaking her cat, Pitty Sing, into the car despite her son, Bailey's, refusal to bring the animal on their vacation. The grandmother

didn't intend for the cat to be left alone in the house...

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for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself.

She hides the cat in a basket at her feet. However, later on, when she realizes that she has made a mistake with directions that will infuriate her son, she gets so upset that "her feet jumped up," disturbing the cat, who then jumps onto Bailey's shoulder while he's driving. He wrecks the car, and it flips over once, jostling everyone out of their seats and injuring his wife. In other words, the grandmother is essentially responsible for the accident: she sneaks her cat into the car and she gives Bailey the wrong directions.

Later, after the carload of young men stops, supposedly to help the family, the grandmother recognizes The Misfit, an escaped convict who was reported to be headed to Florida (just as the family is), and she calls him out by his nickname. The man, however, says that "it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me." Now that she has recognized him, it seems that he cannot let them go, and so The Misfit and his cronies kill the whole family.

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What is the grandmother’s conflict in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

The grandmother's main conflict in the story is with society. She is unhappy with the way men and women act, and she idealizes the past when she believes that men acted like honorable and honest gentlemen and women acted like ladies. In contrast with her memories, her son Bailey is rude and gruff toward her and her daughter-in-law. "The children's mother" is described as a "young woman in slacks" (as though wearing slacks is a criminal offense). In fact, she wears slacks again when the family embarks on its road trip, though the grandmother wears a dress with matching hat and gloves, a little "purple spray of cloth violets" pinned at her collar. The grandmother feels certain that, if the family were to have an accident, "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady."

When they stop at Red Sammy's barbecue, the proprietor mentions that one cannot "know who to trust" these days, and the grandmother agrees that "People are certainly not nice like they used to be." She identifies Red Sammy as a "good man" because he trusts other people and expects them to be trustworthy and behave honorably. She does not like the way people act, and she wishes for a return to "traditional" values (which, incidentally, include racism—see her word choices when referring to an African American child—and sexism—she likes Red Sammy though he is really terrible toward his wife) because her status as a lady seems to have afforded her some measure of privilege then and it does not anymore.

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