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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Significant Allusions

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Religious Allusions: Allusions to Christianity develop the grandmother’s cultural standpoint; they also serve as a moral context for the discussion between the grandmother and the Misfit.

  • John Wesley: The family’s eight-year-old boy has the same name as the founder of the Methodist Christian reformation movement. Methodism emphasizes personal faith and sanctification through prayer and scripture study, and teaches that salvation is available to all who accept Jesus as their savior.
  • Jesus Christ: During the conversation between the grandmother and the Misfit, the two characters make specific reference to one of Christ’s miracles: resurrection of the dead. Christ exhibits this ability three times in the canonical Gospels: The raising of Jairus’ daughter (mentioned in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke), the raising of the young man from Nain (mentioned in the Gospel of Luke), and the raising of Lazarus (mentioned in the Gospel of John). As the grandmother and the Misfit converse, the Misfit remarks that Christ “shouldn’t have” resurrected anyone: “He shown everything off balance.” The Misfit’s crisis of faith seems to be due to his inability to know for certain whether Christ’s miracles were real, and whether humanity itself is worth saving. 

Allusions to Popular Culture: Allusions to popular culture establish the story within a specific time and place and reveal information about the grandmother’s worldview.

  • “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”: The title of the story is taken from a song of the same name, written by Eddie Green in 1917. It was popularized by Bessie Smith in 1928.
  • Gone With the Wind: After the grandmother points out a plantation graveyard, John Wesley asks where the plantation itself has gone. The grandmother responds that it has “Gone with the Wind.” She is referencing the title of Margaret Mitchell’s wildly popular 1936 novel and its 1939 film adaptation, which tell the story of Scarlett O’Hara, who rebuilds her life when her plantation home is nearly destroyed in the Civil War. Gone With the Wind romanticizes confederate society and the alleged grandeur of the Old South, just as the grandmother seems to cling to notions of Southern gentility.
  • “The Tennessee Waltz”: is a country music song that was popular in the mid-1940s. The 1950 recording by Patti Page sold over 10 million copies. The singer explains that her lover has left her for an old friend of hers after she introduced the two of them at a dance. She laments that she now knows “just how much [she has] lost,” foreshadowing the loss of the grandmother’s family at the end of the story 
  • Pitty Sing: The name of the grandmother’s cat is the same as that of a character in The Mikado, a 1885 comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. The Mikado satirizes the prudish social mores of Victorian England, just as Bailey and his children reject the old-fashioned ideas of the grandmother. Her insistence on bringing the cat on their road trip can be read as symbolic of her insistence on clinging to outmoded behaviors; the failure of the family to communicate openly about their differences of perspective is therefore directly responsible for their accident.

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