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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by Flannery O’Connor

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Discussion Topic

The significance of the grandmother's interactions with the Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."

Summary:

The grandmother's interactions with the Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" highlight themes of grace, redemption, and moral ambiguity. Her attempts to appeal to his better nature and her final moment of grace underscore the complex dynamics between good and evil, ultimately leading to her tragic realization and death.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother call the Misfit her child?

Throughout the story, the grandmother has made it clear that she is the type to judge other people quite freely. She feels that she, unlike so many others around her, is a lady, and she laments the changing times that have resulted in people becoming less trustworthy and dignified. It is telling, I think, that she never acknowledges her daughter-in-law by name, and the younger woman is only identified as the children's mother who wears slacks, as though wearing pants rather than a skirt is an egregious enough error in propriety as to stamp out all other aspects of the woman's identity.

When she initially comes into contact with the Misfit, the grandmother repeatedly insists that he is "a good man" and that he does not look like he has "common blood"; she says that she knows he comes "from nice people." It becomes clear that he realizes what her values are, that she is precisely the kind of person who would put him in jail for a crime he didn't commit, scapegoating him for society's ills because he is working-class while she is "a lady." When he tells her that he didn't know why he got sent to prison, she claims that he must have stolen something, looking to justify a system that had wronged him, and he "sneered slightly." Next, she tells him to pray. She seems to continue to blame him rather than society for the injustices he endured. The grandmother continues her attempt to manipulate him by telling him that he's "not common," which only shows her values more clearly.

Ultimately, however, when the grandmother hears the Misfit's voice nearly crack with emotion, her "head clear[s] for an instant." It is then that she reaches up to touch him, and she calls him "one of [her] babies." After he shoots her, she sits on the ground "with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky." Because the narrator tells us that her head cleared, I interpret this as the first moment of real clarity for her. The grandmother no longer sees the differences between her and this criminal, a man she would judge so critically in any other situation, but she recognizes their shared humanity. The fact that she is described as looking like a child after death tells me that she died in a state of innocence. In the end, she's had an epiphany—she stops trying to manipulate the Misfit as she has been trying to do all along—and she simply treats him like a young man who could be one of her children. It is this real experience of emotional intimacy, I think, that compels the Misfit to react as though a "snake had bitten him" and shoot her immediately. It's the first time he's uncomfortable with her because he has likely never experienced that kind of kindness from someone of her ilk.

In short, she says this line because she is seeing clearly for the first time in her life, and this is why he says that she'd have been a good woman all along (and not just at the end) if she'd been facing death for her whole life.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother call the Misfit her child?

In answering this question it's important to remind ourselves just what kind of a pickle the grandmother is in. She's entirely at the mercy of an escaped convict, the Misfit, a crazed killer who's liable to lash out at the least provocation. That being the case, it's only natural that the grandmother should try to humor him in some way, anything that might make him less likely to kill her.

She does this by treating him like a normal human being, someone with whom she can discuss religious matters. The grandmother knows full well that the Misfit is anything but a normal human being, of course, but under the circumstances, treating him like one is most probably her best bet for staying alive.

After other appeals have failed, the grandmother calls the Misfit one of her children, even though she only has one child. In saying this, she's not only establishing a personal connection between herself and the escaped killer, but experiencing a moment of grace, seeing the Misfit as fully human and not unlike her own child in this way. Unfortunately for the grandmother, this final tactic falls flat, and the Misfit shoots her dead.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother call the Misfit her child?

The grandmother, in a misguided attempt to appeal to the Misfit's non-existent sympathy, calls him "one of her own children." She does not mean that she suddenly recognizes the Misfit as her long-lost child in a literal sense; rather, she means that he is so familiar to her at this particular moment that he could be her own child.

The grandmother makes this kind of comment in response to a display of vulnerability by the Misfit. While talking about Jesus, the Misfit has just displayed some emotional depth, as evidenced by the expression on his face being "as if he were going to cry." Possibly, the grandmother may be trying to deepen the emotional connection between herself and the Misfit so that he will feel something positive towards her and let her live, but no matter her motives, her attempts to create a bond fail. The Misfit shoots her when she tries to touch his shoulder and offer him comfort, and he and Bobby Lee mock her talkative manner over her dead body.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother call the Misfit her child?

Yes, you are right to comment on this, because, as far as we know, the grandmother only has one son, Bailey. However, at the end of the story, as she converses with the Misfit whilst her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are being killed, she suddenly has a kind of epiphany which involves her identification of the Misfit as being her child:

Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!

This is a statement that must not be taken literally. Rather, if we look at this quote in context, we can see that the grandmother is tremendously moved by the Misfit's expressed desire to ascertain the truth of Jesus and his actions. Her epiphany is therefore based on her understanding of a sense of human connection between them both and her awareness of the similarities between them. She realises that she is a "Misfit" just like the Misfit, but just before her death she is given this moment of insight in which she is allowed to see herself for who she really is.

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find" why does the grandmother at the end of the story say what she does to the Misfit?She says, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children."?

The grandmother's actions at the end of the story are quite interesting; she spends most of the story, and we can easily imagine, her life, being a nasty, manipulative, condescending woman stuck in old-fashioned ways and expectations.  However, at the end, she turns loving and kind.  Perhaps, faced with her own mortality, she is finally able to realize that all people essentially, are connected, and she reaches out to share that near-death revelation.  Flannery O'Connor often told stories that had a theme of religious redemption, even though the stories themselves were pretty aggressive and often brutal in their violence.  Most critics agree that at the end, as the grandmother faces the end of her life, and realizes that she is going to die, that she has a sort of "vision," or clarity.  Before the declaration that she stated, she refers to Jesus, and how Jesus loves everyone; perhaps this is an attempt to ease his anger, to manipulate him into not killing her, a desparate attempt to save her life. Or, maybe she herself is realizing that she had been a pretty prejudiced and mean person her whole life. But, as the Misfit argues with her about Jesus, getting more angry, he gets in her face.  It is at this point that she seems grasped by a force that is very much unlike her own, which causes her to reach out in love and declare "You're one of my babies.  You're one of my own children!"  She is probably realizing that he was, like she herself was, a child of God.  She could have been referring to herself being the mother, in a figurative sense, of the Misfit, and feeling maternal love for the man, or, she could be speaking for God and religion in general, proclaiming that he was God's child.  Either way, she realizes, too late probably, that she is connected with this man, and as she dies, is filled with love for him, instead of the bitter, cynical thoughts that characterized her life to that point.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why does the grandmother call the Misfit her child?

The answer to this question relates to the pervasive theme of grace in this story and the way that grace is shown to offer both the grandmother and the Misfit a second chance. Let us remember the kind of person that the grandmother is. She is a profoundly selfish individual who completely lacks any self-awareness about her own mistakes and faults. She deliberately manipulates her son's family so she can get her own way and is not above lying and deceiving either, as is shown when she smuggles in her cat against her son's explicit instructions. However, as she talks to the Misfit, and in particular as they discuss the character of Jesus and his actions, she experiences something of an epiphany as she reaches out to the Misfit. This of course prompts her to say: "Why you're one of my own babies. You're one of my own children!" This is rather a confusing statement, as quite clearly the Misfit is not her child. But let us remember that these words are actually a realisation that both she and the Misfit are human beings who are subject to mistakes and sins. This similarity that she sees between herself and the Misfit could actually said to be the one moment in the story when she sees herself for who she is.

Of course, this change in the grandmother and the moment of insight she is given before dying is paralleled by the Misfit's own change. Before, he declared that there was "no pleasure but meanness" in life, but at the end of the story, he stops Bobby Lee from rejoicing in the "fun" they have had by saying "It's no real pleasure in life." Grace is shown to be able to descend on the unworthiest of recipients.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," why does the grandmother murmur "you are one of my own children" to the Misfit?

I tended to see the grandmother as an overall selfish character. I understand the other perspective and can easily see how both would be entertained. Considering O'Connor's religious themes and background, it would seem logical that the grandmother in this moment receives grace in some sort of epiphany and that she finally becomes a good woman when facing her own death.  On the other hand, she may just be trying to save her own life. So, there's no real epiphany or grace here. What the Misfit says of her fits both interpretations. "She would have been a good woman if someone had been there to shoot her every minute of her life." This implies that 1) for a brief, and all important last minute, she was good and 2) she was never good until that last minute. Which begs the question, does waiting until the last minute count?  Is late better than never?

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In "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," why does the grandmother murmur "you are one of my own children" to the Misfit?

In the context of O'Connor's story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," grace is something often undeserved, a force outside a character that generates an epiphany.  The grandmother has such an epiphany and receives grace as suddenly looks at the Misfit with a new perspective, seeing him as like unto herself.  At this point, the grandmother becomes a good Christian as she reaches out to the Misfit.  After he shoots her, the Misfit does recognize her transformation, for he says,

'She would have been a good woman...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.'

Significantly, after being shot the religious number of three times,  she falls over her legs which are crossed under her, symbolically like the crucified Christ, who died to save others.  For, after turning down the road to error, the grandmother redeems herself from the petty, materialistic life which she has been living.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why is the grandmother's early mention of the Misfit significant?

The grandmother's mention of the Misfit serves as foreshadowing and irony and adds to the characterization of the grandmother. The grandmother is a manipulative and rather selfish woman who does not have a good relationship with her son, her daughter-in-law, or her grandchildren. The grandmother's purpose for discussing the Misfit reveals her self-centeredness. Although she insists on accompanying her son's family on their vacation, she tries to change their destination. She wants to visit people she knows in Tennessee, so she brings up the Misfit as a reason to persuade her son not to go to Florida. She is being dishonest and manipulative.

The discussion of the Misfit so early in the story, as well as at the gas station, serves to foreshadow the tragedy at the end of the story when the family has a car accident. The Misfit happens to see the accident and takes advantage of the family's misfortune to gain a different vehicle and clothing. The grandmother hints that the Misfit is a frightful criminal. The reference is vague, but "what he did to those people" must be particularly gruesome if the grandmother does not even want to mention it aloud.

There is a significant amount of irony surrounding the grandmother's comments about the Misfit. It's ironic that her selfish advice, if her son had heeded it, would have resulted in the lives of six people being spared. She also says she "couldn't answer to [her] conscience" if she took her family into a part of the country where that criminal was loose. Unfortunately, the grandmother's conscience is not highly tuned. She is dishonest about her warning, she sneaks a cat into the car when she knows her son would forbid it, and she ends up telling lies about the home she wants to drive by. If she was a person who had a functioning conscience herself, the family wouldn't have been on the deserted road and the cat wouldn't have caused the car accident. The Misfit, of course, turns out to be lacking in conscience as well, but his crimes are significantly more wanton. Yet O'Connor draws a significant parallel between the grandmother and the Misfit, and having the grandmother mention the Misfit early in the story helps create that ironic correlation between two characters that should be very different from each other--but really aren't. 

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why is the grandmother's early mention of the Misfit significant?

It is significant that the grandmother brings up the Misfit at the beginning of the story because it foreshadows the events that occur later in the story when the family has an accident and the Misfit and his cohorts stop and kill them.  She says, "'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.'"  Ironically, this is just about the only time in the story that the grandmother is actually right about anything; it really would have been best for the family to avoid Florida.  We also get to see what the grandmother's response to a person like the Misfit is when she's not actually faced with the person.  In the end, we see the grandmother kind of buttering up the Misfit, insisting that he's a "good man," but this is such a contrast with her earlier description of him that we can see that she's only being nice to him to save her own skin.  Her first references to him allow us to properly understand both her later behavior as well as to recognize the significance of her eventual epiphany that he is not really so different from her after all.

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What is the conflict between the grandmother and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

As a Roman Catholic, Flannery O'Connor was often concerned with the cardinal sins, especially that of pride in her stories.  In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother prides herself upon being a lady and a moral one at that.  Hints of the conflict between her and the Misfit appear early in the story when the grandmother takes such care in her dress for the road trip.  She contemplates what a person would perceive if the family has an accident on the way.  With dramatic irony O'Connor writes,

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

If she is killed in an accident, it will little matter what she looks like, yet she is worried about physical appearance and what class people will put her in based upon this appearance.  Later in the story, the grandmother tells her grandchildren that she should have married a Mr. Teagarden since he was a "gentleman," and had died a wealthy man.  Again the grandmother's emphasis upon class and money is stated with death, a context which causes these shallow values to appear foolish.

In the climax of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother foolishly does not admit that she is mistaken about the road they travel on to see a house; she also causes the accident because she has smuggled her cat into the car.  After the Misfit and his friends arrive, she does not exert much effort toward saving her family other than trying to convince the Misfit that he is a decent person:  "I know  you're a good man," she tells him.  However, the Misfit disagrees and responds to her recitations about Jesus by telling her that he cannot believe scripture; he can only believe if he has witnessed saving grace.  And, ironically, it is in witnessing this grace in the grandmother as she reaches out to him, declaring, "You're one of my children" that the Misfit shows the potential for salvation after witnessing this Christian reach to him even though he does shoot her: 

It's no real pleasure in life, [killing]

he says which indicates that there is the potential for him to change. 

The conflict within the grandmother is that she does not realize her sin of pride, but in her dying moment she has an epiphany in which she realizes that she is no better than the Misfit:"Why you're one of my babies!  You're one of my own children!"  In a moment of saving grace, the grandmother reaches out to the criminal, humbling herself.

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What is the conflict between the grandmother and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

Well, to put it simply, The Misfit is a mass murderer intent on killing the grandmother and her family, and understandably, she doesn't want him to.  It makes sense.  That is the overarching conflict between the two.  But, if you want to look at their actual dialogue, there are a couple underlying themes that they seem to have opposing viewpoints on, that causes a bit of friction.  This dialogue appears very near the end of the story, if you want to find the passages yourself.  The first disagreement comes when the grandmother insists of The Misfit that he is a good man.  The Misfit disagrees:  "Nome, I ain't a good man," he states, and they go back and forth on that for a while. The next conflict comes when she starts lecturing him about praying and turning to Jesus.  He disagrees that he needs to pray, because "I don't want no help...I'm doing all right by myself."  And later, he insists that Jesus "shown everything off balance."  She insists that if he turns to Jesus he could go clean and live an honest life, but he argues, saying that he has no way of knowing if Jesus was real, and if he actually raised the dead, so how can he possibly follow Jesus?  He wishes he had been there, so he could know.  But he can't, so instead, his motto in life is "No pleasure but meanness."  The grandmother's last words still cling to her hope in Jesus as she states in a symbolic representation of God, "Why, you're one of my babies!  You're one of my own children!"  That pushes him over the edge.  He then shoots her.

So, the main conflict is a difference in beliefs over a couple key issues, the first being that the grandmother believes he is a good man, and The Misfit disagreeing, then in the grandmother insisting he turns to Jesus and pray, and him refusing and expressing doubts on the issue.  I hope that helps a bit; it's a tricky story, so good luck.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," what does the final scene between the Misfit and the grandmother reveal about spirituality or religion?

The last scene between the grandmother and the Misfit show that spirituality and religion need to either be everything to a person, or else they are nothing. When the Misfit and the grandmother are talking about Jesus raising the dead (from the Christian Bible), the Misfit says:

"If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw 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"

This stark difference between the Misfit and Jesus demonstrates to the grandmother the true purpose of religion. It is only about whether someone is living for his/herself or for living for Jesus. The Misfit claims that if Jesus did raise the dead, then the only way to live is following Jesus' example, which is the opposite of murder. The grandmother experiences a moment of doubt, wondering if Jesus did indeed raise the dead.

The violence and terror of the moment strip away any other option other than being selfish or selfless. The Misfit claims that these two options are actually always the only two options.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," what does the final scene between the Misfit and the grandmother reveal about spirituality or religion?

Key to an understanding of the final scene of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is the Misfit's remark about the grandmother:

"She would have been a good woman,...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

For, O'Connor's story is one of her anti-parables in which the face of death is enlightening and grace is devastating to the one receiving it. The violence of the Misfit startles the grandmother out of her pretensions of social superiority and forces her to recognize that she, like the Misfit, is a sinner.  She, then, makes this religious connection with the Misfit, and, in so doing, becomes the recipient of grace.

In Mystery and Manners, O'Connor declared that her "subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil." The Misfit is, ironically then, the agent of grace for the grandmother. For, the violence of the evil Misfit, the brutal deaths of her family, is what shakes the grandmother from her complacency to enter into faith.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," how does the grandmother's violent encounter with the Misfit lead her to Christ?

The grandmother is very self-absorbed and preoccupied with herself.  It's her decision to go on vacation, and where they go, and that they drive to the house she wants to see.  It's essentially her fault they are in the fix they are in, and she is the one who recognizes the Misfit.  Had she not said she knew who he was, they may have gotten off without being shot in the head and left in the woods.

It is only when the grandmother is faced with her own mortality and the death of her entire family that she has a thought which is unselfish.  Her talk with the Misfit begins as a selfish attempt to save her life and the lives of her family, but then ends up with the revelation that the Misfit is "one of her own children"--meaning that he is like all other people.  He was not destined to be the evil man people think him to be...events in his life could have lead him anywhere...just like events have led the grandmother and her family to the same isolated road where the Misfit and his crew happen to be. 

The Misfit responds with the sentiment that if the grandmother had been in such a serious situation (a gun to her head) all her life that she might have been a better, more tolerable person.

So, it is her desperate attempt to save her own life that leads her to redemption--however brief it is, it is significant to her character development.

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what do we learn about the possibility of change in the conversation between the Misfit and the grandmother?

The defining theme of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is grace, which is the agent that changes the grandmother and possibly the Misfit as well.

The grandmother is a snobbish woman who obsesses over appearing to look like a lady and putting on airs. She is obsessed with social concerns and the material world, and she appears to think of no one but herself. However, her encounter with the Misfit is both tragic and redeeming.

At first glance, one might assume the grandmother would view herself as finer than the criminal Misfit, who speaks with a less sophisticated vocabulary. However, she comes to identify with his existential pain and feels compassion for him. When she says "you're one of my babies," she is admitting the shared humanity between them. They are both sinners, and there is no room for judgment.

The grandmother is shot dead by the Misfit when she attempts to touch him, but even he seems changed by their encounter. He admits to feeling no pleasure from "meanness" and sadism any longer. There is a chance he might redeem himself yet.

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what do we learn about the possibility of change in the conversation between the Misfit and the grandmother?

One of the key themes of this story is the way in which it presents us with two characters who are defined by their many faults and sins. Both the grandmother and the Misfit, to varying degrees, represent humanity in all of its sinfulness. However, if we analyse the conversation that the grandmother has with the Misfit towards the end of this story, we see that grace, an incredibly important concept for Flannery O'Connor, is shown to operate in both of these characters, presenting them with a possibility of change.

Note how the grandmother reponds to the Misfit's desire to ascertain what Jesus did and didn't do. She experiences a moment of grace in an epiphany when she acknowledges a shared common humanity:

His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.

Of course, the Misfit isn't her literal child, but this recognition of a shared humanity actually represents the grandmother's sanest moment in the entrie short story. She has been granted clarity and compassion before she dies. Note, too, how the Misfit has been changed by this encounter. At the end of the story, having previously claimed that the only pleasure in life was in "meanness," he now declares that violence and meanness is "no pleasure in life." Change is possible even in the most unrepentant of characters, this final conversation seems to suggest.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," why is the grandmother's early mention of the Misfit significant?

The grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" likes to think of herself as a well-bred "lady" and a religious person, but readers are able to determine early in the story that she is manipulative, passive-aggressive, and a racist. Though the family would like to go to Florida on their vacation, she insists that it would be safer to go to east Tennessee, where she wants to go. She also smuggles her cat into the car, knowing that her son would object if he knew she brought it.

When the family encounters The Misfit, the grandmother repeats "pray, pray" to her daughter-in-law and granddaughter when he begins to detail atrocities her has witnessed. Only when she recognizes that her life in danger does she adopt a religious attitude. She encourages The Misfit to pray and begins to preach to him, telling him that Jesus will forgive him for his sins. As her children and grandchildren are shot one by one, she screams "Jesus" in a way that sounds more like cursing, the narrator observes, than praying. She quickly abandons her stance as a Christian and offers The Misfit all her money to spare her life. She agrees with him that "maybe He didn’t raise the dead" because she is even willing to abandon her faith and denounce her savior if it prevents The Misfit and his accomplice from killing her.

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Why does the author introduce the grandmother discussing the Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

As the story opens, the grandmother is reading a newspaper article about the Misfit, a criminal who has broken out of prison and is heading for Florida. Florida is where she and her family are driving for a vacation. The grandmother announces forcefully she wouldn't take her children in the same direction as the Misfit, as it isn't safe.

We find out in the first sentences of the story that the grandmother wants to go to Tennessee, not Florida. Bringing up the Misfit being "aloose" is an attempt to persuade Bailey at the last minute to change his mind about their vacation destination.

Talking about the Misfit characterizes the grandmother as manipulative. Being powerless, the grandmother will use whatever means are at her disposal to try to get her way. This opening, in which the grandmother's words are quoted directly as a dialogue, also reveals that for all her pretensions of being a lady, she does not use the most polished speech. Instead, she uses words like "aloose" and terms like "look here." She also stands over Bailey with her hand on her hip, "rattling the newspaper at his bald head." This is not a pose normally associated with a refined lady.

The introduction of the Misfit at the start of the story also foreshadows the encounter he will have later with the grandmother and her family. Ironically, while the grandmother is only trying to use him to get her way and is ignored by her son, she is correct that the Misfit poses a grave danger to the family.

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Compare and contrast the grandmother and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

The grandmother has enjoyed privilege in her life, the privilege associated with her social and economic class.  The Misfit has not enjoyed such privilege, and he is bitter.  When the grandmother readies herself for a road trip, she wears a dress with matching hat and gloves because she wants to make sure that, should she be in an accident, any person who sees her dead on the side of the road would know that she's a lady.  She judges society for having lost its manners, and she mourns the fact that people are no longer honest and good in her view.  However, she doesn't seem to have any understanding of the idea that some people have bigger problems than worrying about their manners.  For example, the Misfit was convicted of a crime he did not commit, representative of the fact that the poor tend not to be believed the way the wealthy are.  His home life was tragic, his life a wreck, and so he decided that if everyone was going to believe that he was bad, then he might as well be bad.  She is a product of her society, and he is a victim of it.

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Compare and contrast the grandmother and the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

The grandmother and the Misfit have more differences than similarities, such as age and social status.  The similarities are few in number, bu they do exist.  Both the grandmother and the Misfit are both missing important emotional and spiritual bonds.  The grandmother has never truly "gotten" what being saved truly means and how to achieve true salvation.  She is ignorant to what real salvation is.  The Misfit also is missing the ability to empathize and bond with other human beings. He sees them as a means to an end.  He does not hold respect for human life.  The only companions he has are two goons who aid him in murdering others.  The grandmother recognizes that the Misfit has, more than likely, not had anyone really care about him in his life, so she has an epiphany at the end of the story and desperately reaches out to him on an emotional and spiritual level.

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What are some similarities between the Misfit and the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

Both the Misfit and the grandmother have questionable moral compasses. For the grandmother, the thing that matters most is that one be a "good man" or act like a "lady." For example, her daughter-in-law is not even named in the story; she is described as "a young woman in slacks," and, later, she "still had on slacks," as though the grandmother finds this choice of apparel inappropriate and distasteful in a woman because it isn't ladylike. The grandmother herself wears a sailor hat and "navy blue dress" for a long car ride because, "In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady." These are her priorities. However, she is a terrible racist, using slurs and making assumptions about black people that are dismissive and condescending. She is also terribly selfish, pressuring her son to go where she wants to go, sneaking her cat into the car, and even lying to cover up her own mistake when she realizes she has directed them awry. She also thinks Red Sammy is a "good man" because he purports to share her values, though he is dismissive and rude to his own wife in front of strangers.

The Misfit may not have done anything wrong at first—he claims to have been imprisoned for the murder of his father when his father had really died of influenza. However, he claims that he soon learned that "You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you're going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it." He begins to do evil and illegal things simply because he had already been punished and was trying to make the punishment and crime balance out. He says that there is nothing 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." Most people, I think, would choose to enjoy what life they have left by visiting family, living in peace, going out into nature, having children, or the like, and they are not brought any pleasure by the idea of harming others.

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What are some similarities between the Misfit and the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

Although only the Misfit is the only one given the name, both the grandmother and he could be called misfits. The grandmother, who represents the Old South, doesn't fit in well with the new, casual, and equalitarian 1950s world. She wants to cling to the past and her status as a lady, but the value of being a lady is fast fading in her society. She also definitely doesn't fit in with her family: she annoys her son, Bailey, and his wife and children. It's clear from the rudeness with which they all treat her that they would just as soon wish that she didn't come on vacation with them.

The Misfit, as his name suggests, is, like the grandmother, a social misfit. In his case, he is a criminal and a murderer, so definitely living outside the boundaries of the ordinary social order.

Both the Misfit and the grandmother, though they don't realize it, also share an empty space they are trying to fill. This makes them restless. The missing part of both their lives is God. It is only at the very end of the story, after everything else has been taken from her, that the grandmother has a moment of grace and is able to see the Misfit through God's eyes as a child she can love and forgive. And for the briefest instance before he shoots and kills her, the Misfit is touched by that love.

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What are some similarities between the Misfit and the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

One of the most striking similarities between the Misfit and the grandmother is their hypocrisy. The Misfit is clearly a criminal, yet declares that he calls himself “The Misfit” because he “can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment” (21). The Misfit deflects blame from himself and refuses to bear the consequences of his actions.

On the other hand, the grandmother continuously claims to be a “lady” though she is evidently racist, and essentially entirely to blame for the murder of her family. The grandmother manipulated her son into driving by a house the she wanted to see before realizing that it was in another state. Furthermore, she begs for her life, but never asks The Misfit to spare her family. In fact, the grandmother doesn’t even recognize that The Misfit has taken her son’s shirt after he kills him.

Finally, on the issue of faith as is pertinent to Flanner O’Connor’s works, The Misfit outright rejects religion, but also admits to the grandmother that “Nome, I ain’t a good man” (17).  Conversely, the grandmother pleads to him that “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady” (17). Returning to the theme of hypocrisy, this is another great example that follows the grandmother’s previous agreement with Red Sammy that “A good man is hard to find” (8). According to Revelations 3:16, the Bible says, “So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” That verse, in a religious context, means that God prefers that you either accept or reject him fully. While The Misfit directly rejects religion and faith, the grandmother claims to be a lady and have morals because of her religion, yet she only relies on religion when her life is on the line. The Misfit says, after killing her, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (23). Ultimately, The Misfit’s statement helps to summarize the grandmother’s hypocrisy, but also exposes her lukewarm religion used only in an attempt to save her life rather than live by it throughout her life.

Works Cited

O'Connor, Flannery. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955. 1-23. Print.

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the Misfit and the Grandmother seem to have a strange/intense relationship: what is going on there?

When answering this question, you can't leave out the situation at hand--the Misfit is about to kill the Grandmother.  That's pretty intense--if you were in that situation, the emotions would be heightened, and you'd probably be begging and crying just like she was.  This automatically intensifies things, and brings the two characters very, very close, as they parry back and forth in the dramatic situation.  So it isn't that they have some sort of back-story, or personal relationship or anything, they are just in a really intense situation.

Something else that is "going on" between these two characters is a religious discussion.  The Grandmother, desperate to live, brings up mercy, and Jesus Christ, hoping to appeal to the Misfit's softer side, to let him know that Christ redeems all men, even bad ones.  This was the wrong approach to take, as the Misfit picks up on that thread and discounts it, saying that by raising the dead Christ had "thrown everything off balance," and that he didn't take any stock in Jesus, but in living life to its fullest by being mean.  He gets in her face saying he wished he had been there when Christ raised the dead, because then "I wouldn't be like I am now."  She sees his weak spot, and in a revelatory change of character, the Grandmother proclaims with love that he was "one of my own children," either speaking from God's point of view, or from some unconditional love that is washing over her at the moment.

So to intensify an already taught situation, they argue over God and Christ, and the Grandmother seems to have some sort of pre-death revelation about love.  Emotions are running high, they are debating the soul's worth and value, and lives are at stake.  All of these things make for a quickly forged, almost intimate relationship between two rather random characters.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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Could you analyze and compare the Grandmother to the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor?

This is a hard comparison to make since the grandmother, no matter how annoying and self-centered, is not such a social misfit that she poses a violent threat to society. As long as this very large and significant distinction between the two of them is kept clearly in view (not all things that are similar can be said to be the same) then a comparison might be drawn. Both Grandmother and Misfit are unsure of their places in the microcosm of society (their niche of society) and both react to this lack of fit, this lack of clear belonging, by lashing out in self-centered ways. Grandmother does this through egocentric whims that become wheedling demands while Misfit does this through (the much worse) actions of violence and devastation that ravage society.

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Why does the grandmother tell the Misfit that she recognizes him in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

The short answer is that she recognizes the Misfit from his picture in the newspaper. The longer answer has to do with the Grandmother's character. That is, it's entirely consistent with her personality for her to blurt out that she recognizes this stranger with a gun as a dangerous fugitive. She has no sense of consequences, and is only vaguely aware of her own infantile behavior. Mostly, she lives in a kind of delusional state, in which she relives a past life as a kind of southern belle. Her dress, with its organdy trim that she hopes will identify her as "a lady" should she be killed in a car accident, or her enthusing over a naked Black child in a shack, are examples of her narcissistic, infantile personality.

When she meets the Misfit, her identification of him, and her belief that he "comes from good people" and is a representative of some chivalrous Southern past, is of a piece with this delusion. The Misfit, who she has romanticized, is a kind of celebrity for her. But the meeting also marks a change in her mentality. It is a rare moment of lucidity for her, which follows her realization that she has been mistaken about the house the family is trying to see, a moment that causes her to briefly panic and precipitates the accident. She wants to believe that the Misfit is a good man, but she comes to realize, as she did with the location of the house, that she is terribly mistaken.

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Why does the grandmother call the Misfit "a good man" in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

The grandmother calls the Misfit a good man because she is trying desperately to save herself. She uses the protections that have served her throughout her life. She tries to offer the Misfit money, which is pointless, as he can simply kill her and take it (as he point outs). She also tries to appeal to his sense of honor by appealing to the idea that he should behave like a gentleman because she is clearly a lady. This comes from her lifelong belief that being a "lady" will protect her from the worst evils in life.

Faced with a mass murderer, the grandmother is stripped of her false protections. As she faces death, neither money nor her status can save her. It is only when she faces the reality of her own vulnerability that she can experience a moment of grace and see the Misfit as her own son and as a being loved by God.

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Why does the grandmother call the Misfit "a good man" in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

At this point in Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the grandmother is trying to make an appeal to The Misfit's good side in an effort to survive her encounter. At this desperate moment, the grandmother recognizes that The Misfit holds all the power in his hands; she is absolutely powerless to stop him from killing her, so she resorts to empty flattering comments in a last-ditch effort to change his mind.

The grandmother's words at this moment in the story link directly to the title of the short story, turning a clichéd observation about humanity in general into a darkly comic inside joke of sorts. By the end of the story, after observing the grandmother's interaction with The Misfit in the moments before her death, the reader has insight into the title; a good man is indeed hard to find, especially if one has the bad luck to encounter a murderous psychopath while traveling with one's family.

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Why does the grandmother call the Misfit "a good man" in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

The grandmother calls the Misfit a "good man" in the end because she is trying to persuade him not to shoot her. She attempts to appeal to his values, hoping that they are the same as hers, crying, "I know you wouldn't shoot a lady!" She even says to him, "You're not a bit common!" By telling him these things, the grandmother hopes that she can appeal to their shared values—assuming that he also places a high premium on being "a good man" and treating a "lady" a certain way—that she can show him how similar they are (though they really are not). It is also possible that she is flattering him, assuming again that he has the same values and that he would be flattered by her claiming him in this way. However, they obviously do not share the same values, and this kind of flattery does not work on him.

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Why does the grandmother call the Misfit "a good man" in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"?

One of the most baffling moments in Flannery O'Conner's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" occurs near the end, when the grandmother insists the Misfit is a "good man" despite repeated examples to the contrary. It's never explicitly stated why the grandmother persists in doing so, but we can make at least two assumptions regarding her motivations based on the context. First, it seems like the grandmother is trying to flatter the Misfit by calling him a good man and, in doing so, convince him to stop murdering her family members.  Second, by calling the Misfit a "good man," the grandmother could also be trying to convince herself of this fact. Panicking in a dreadful situation, the grandmother appears to be grasping at any kind of security available to her, even if that means clinging to an increasingly absurd fantasy that the Misfit is a "good man." Therefore, with these two ideas in mind, the grandmother's interactions with the Misfit become more and more desperate. 

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Why does the grandmother call The Misfit a good man in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

In an attempt to save her life, the grandmother pays The Misfit the highest compliments she can think of. Since she is a woman who embodies old southern values and prejudices it makes sense that she would tell him that he is a "good man" and "not a bit common."

The grandmother, however, begins to change as she gets more desperate. She begins to call out to Jesus in earnest, though it sounds "as if she might be cursing." Finally, when The Misfit looks like he might cry, the "grandmother's head clear[s] for an instant and she says, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" and reaches out to touch him. At that instant he shoots her dead.

Though The Misfit is clearly evil, he does bring about a positive change in the grandmother before he dies. The shock and fear she feels makes her forget her snobbishness and look at him with compassion. For a moment, she sees The Misfit as Jesus himself would have.

The Misfit recognizes that the crisis brought out the best in the old woman. He acknowledges that "She would of been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

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Why does the grandmother call The Misfit a good man in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

The concept of what makes a man good is established in the title of the story, and such notions pervade the plot. The Grandmother calls Red Sammy a good man, and she calls The Misfit a good man, despite not truly knowing either of them. Furthermore, her notions of goodness seem superficial, based more on pedigree and genteel manners than on any actual moral qualities. By this interpretation, the grandmother calls The Misfit as a "good man" because in her mind, a good man would never do the horrible things The Misfit does. It is an act of either willful self-delusion or perhaps wish fulfillment—an appeal to The Misfit's better nature.

By a different reading, when the grandmother calls The Misfit a "good man," she is attempting to use the only real currency she has to manipulate him. One by one, his cronies are taking her family to the woods to be shot, and she wants to save her own life. Confident before the family left the house that she is dressed like a lady, and that anyone would know her for a lady even if she were lying dead on the side of the road, she tries to win The Misfit's mercy by telling him that she thinks he is a "good man": someone of her status and ilk and society.

Of course, The Misfit is a convicted killer, so the grandmother cannot actually believe that he is a "good man" by her standards (which have been established throughout the story). She is likely more like the people who would have locked him up for a crime he didn't commit simply because of his family's lack of pedigree or their poverty. The grandmother calls him a "good man" in an effort to make him think of their similarities rather than their differences, perhaps even to flatter him by her willingness to associate herself, a lady, with him. By this reading, it is not sincere, but, rather, it is her attempt to elicit some mercy from him. It is only at the moment of her death that she sees beyond superficial notions of goodness and instead recognizes the common humanity between herself and her murderer.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," is the grandmother more of a misfit than the Misfit?

It should be said that the grandmother is certainly a deeply unpleasant character, given her vanity, her racism, her self-importance, and her manipulative personality (and on these grounds, I think she can appropriately be understood as a misfit herself). However, that being said, I do not think she should be labeled as equivalent with the Misfit.

When answering a question such as this one, it might be useful to begin by defining the terms in use. In short, we must first ask the question: what does being a misfit entail? To answer this, I've drawn from Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th Edition, 2001), which provides the following definition: "a person not suited to a job, associates, etc.; maladjusted person" (921). In other words, I would suggest that misfits are often defined in terms of being outsiders.

With this working definition in mind, let's compare the grandmother and the Misfit. The grandmother, as noxious as she is, continues to exist within the social order. By contrast, the Misfit exists entirely on the fringes of society, on account of his criminal status. Seen from this perspective, I'd suggest that the Misfit, in his status as a perpetual social outsider, fits the dictionary definition more effectively than the grandmother herself does.

However, that being said, I would argue that the term "misfit" ultimately fails to encapsulate just how dangerous the Misfit actually is and how corrosive his nihilistic sadism is to conventional morality. Quite on the contrary, I'd label him as an active force of malice in the world and a direct threat to the social order itself.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," is the grandmother more of a misfit than the Misfit?

In Flannery O'Conner's short story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, readers follow the events of a family as they travel by car to Florida. The character of the grandmother is definitely as much, if not more, of a misfit than the actual character of The Misfit. On the surface, the grandmother appears to be a "good" person according to society's standards. She considers herself a "lady" and holds strong religious beliefs; however, as the story unfolds readers see that the grandmother's appearance is deceiving.

In looking for evidence of ways the grandmother could be considered more of a misfit than The Misfit, seek out what the grandmother says to other characters. From the beginning of the story to the end, the grandmother tries to manipulate the people and events around her. All of her manipulation centers around what she wants and how things affect her. There is no consideration for her family's choices and desires.

It is in her conversation with The Misfit that her selfishness and manipulation is undeniable. Never once does she beg for the lives of her family members. She is only concerned with herself. These actions contradict the idea of being a "good" person. It is true that The Misfit has earned his nickname because he is different than the rest of society; however, he has never hidden his true nature from society and has acted accordingly to his personality. The grandmother, on the other hand, keeps her true nature hidden under the appearances of being a "good" person, but that surface level appearance does not mean that she is exempted from being considered a misfit herself.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," is the grandmother more of a misfit than the Misfit?

I think this is a great question.  Before analyzing this topic, it is important to understand the reason that Flannery O'Connor wrote this story and all of her other stories. 

O'Connor's main purpose in this story, as well as her other writings was to bring people to Christ.

So, grandmother was absolutely a misfit, in the since that her actions were very un-Chistlike.  She was hypocritical, prejudice, selfish and self rightous.

And the Misfit was obviously a misfit because he was a murderer, very un-UnChristlike indeed.

In a sense, they are equally misfits at one point in the story. They are equally sinful.  I don't think that you could say that say that one is more of a misfit than the other.

However, at the end, the grandmother, before she is shot, is redeemed.  She sees the error in her ways.  She reallizes that the Misfit, whom she looked down upon, could have very well been her son.  She didn't literally think that he was her son, but this shows how she no longer thinks of her self as better than others.  It is indeed her moment of redemption before her death.

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In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," is the grandmother more of a misfit than the Misfit?

Certainly, it appears that the Misfit, unlike the grandmother, has few delusions about himself:

I call myself The Misfit...because I can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment. 

Nor does he have delusions about life: 

Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punsihed a heap and another ain't punished at all?

The Misfit understands the depravity of man, but the grandmother and her platitude about "a good man is hard to find" believes herself righteous.  She constantly preaches to her family--although they ignore her.  Her judgments are poor, from her decision that it is better to bring along her cat than to leave it alone at home, or her fatally wrong idea to go past a plantation house that is in an entirely different state.  Of course, her final act of deluded thinking is that the three men will not harm her and her family.  It is only before she dies that the grandmother has her moment of truth:

Why, you're one of my babies.  You're one of my own children!

She finally realizes that she,too, is a sinner. Her sould is depraved just as the soul of The Misfit is depraved.  Only in death is she thus redeemed: 

'She would have been a good woman,' The Misfit said, 'if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what is one theme sentence about the grandmother and one about the misfit?

This question has also been previously answered. Please see the links below for more information:

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In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," what is one theme sentence about the grandmother and one about the misfit?

A work's themes are often communicated throughout the work, rather than just through a single character. Therefore, the most powerful thematic statements would address multiple characters.

That said, the Misfit would be addressed well through a statement like this: The Misfit communicates the difficulty human beings have in connecting with one another. Another one might be this: The Misfit symbolizes life without faith.
As for the grandmother, she communicates themes of bias and prejudice; she is also a fundamentally dishonest person. These come together in the Misfit's line near the end of the story: "She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

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