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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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How do the author's language choices in the opening of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" have literary relevance?

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In what Patrick Galloway terms O'Connor's "non-didactic Christian fiction," the author depicts her main character, the grandmother, in unsympathetic tones, tones that subtly set the premise for her unique Christian themes based upon the premise that grace is available to everyone, even the most reprehensible.

In the exposition of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," O'Connor immediately describes the grandmother as recalcitrant and selfish: 

The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida....and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind.

Standing with "one hand on her thin hip" and shaking the newspaper at her son Bailey's head, she scolds that the Misfit is loose from a federal penitentiary and is headed to Florida where Bailey wishes to vacation. Sanctimoniously, she announces,

"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, the irony here is that it is the grandmother herself who inadvertently leads the family directly onto the path of the Misfit and then foolishly makes the criminal aware that she knows who he is.

When, therefore, the selfish and crass grandmother, who is guilty of the deaths of her son and his family, acknowledges that the Misfit is "one of my own children," this grievous sinner becomes the recipient of grace because of her moment of psychological clarity that redeems her before her death, underscoring O'Connor's contention that grace is for everyone, even the most loathsome.

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