Introduction to A Good Man Is Hard to Find

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a short story by Flannery O’Connor. It was originally published in an anthology titled The Avon Book of Modern Writing, and has since become O’Connor’s most frequently anthologized work. What begins as a story about an uncomfortable but otherwise normal family road trip quickly takes a darker turn when the family gets lost and encounters an escaped convict known as the Misfit. Readers and critics alike have found the story’s brutal and controversial ending compelling, with most analysis of the story focusing on the final exchange between the Misfit and the grandmother. 

O’Connor was a devout Roman Catholic, and religious themes are prevalent throughout her works. Specifically, her works often explored the notion of Christian grace, especially when it is realized through violent or otherwise extraordinary circumstances. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother is presented as a superficially pious but otherwise selfish and graceless woman. However, after her encounter with the Misfit, she seems to reach some kind of epiphany, and she dies after empathetically recognizing the Misfit, at least symbolically, as “one of [her] own children.”

A Brief Biography of Flannery O’Connor

Mary Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964), better known as Flannery O’Connor, was an American author, editor, and reviewer. She was also a notable letter writer, a habit likely influenced by her relative immobility as a result of her health struggles. Born in the rural South, O’Connor was a lifelong Catholic and lover of birds. Her family moved to their own dairy farm—called Andalusia—in 1940. O’Connor later attended university, where she made a number of connections that she would retain throughout her life. She was invited to attend the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop program under the tutelage of Paul Engle. She spent a brief but happy period residing with friends and writing. However, following her first debilitating attack of lupus in 1950, O’Connor resided at Andalusia farm permanently under the care of her mother. However, despite her declining health and relatively short life, O’Connor became a highly respected and well-known author of novels and short stories, and she maintained a robust correspondence with her friends and loved ones. Her literary oeuvre is noted for its Southern Gothic roots and preoccupation with themes of grace, morality, and human nature. Her notable works include the 1952 novel Wise Blood and the 1955 story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

On their way from Georgia to Florida for a vacation, the family stops at a place to eat called Red Sammy's. It's a restaurant that serves barbecue and is, evidently, owned by a veteran called Red...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 12:11 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The early mention of the Misfit, a convicted killer who has escaped from the Federal Penitentiary in Florida, provides an example of foreshadowing. The grandmother, of course, is only using the...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

In O'Conner's celebrated short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," situational irony occurs when the grandmother tries to avoid traveling to Florida because she fears the Misfit but ends up...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

This is a wonderful short story which relies on complex characterization to generate conflict. There are numerous main points that you could focus on, depending on your own background experiences....

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:24 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

“The Misfit” is the nickname used by a criminal who has escaped from the Federal Penitentiary, and, as the grandmother learns from a newspaper article, he seems to be traveling toward Florida. The...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:24 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Near the end of the story, the Misfit tells the grandmother that he calls himself the Misfit “because [he] can’t make what all [he] done wrong fit what all [he] gone through in punishment.” In...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

I would argue that the first symbol we see in this story is the grandmother's cat, which is a symbol of her rebellion against the family's plans. The family is heading to Florida on vacation, and...

Latest answer posted October 21, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Of the grandmother, The Misfit says that "She would of been a good woman [...] if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." He realizes that she was not a very good person...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" places a great deal of value on outer appearances in defining what constitutes a "good" man. She exemplifies this in her own dress, making sure to...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The Misfit is aptly named. For here is a man who doesn't feel as if he belongs anywhere. No matter where he goes, no matter what he does, he'll always feel out of place. Not surprisingly, the...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:24 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

When discussing the Misfit, it is important, first of all, to take into account the radical nihilism which shapes his perspective on the world. As he expresses in his conversation with the...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 12:58 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

We cannot know for sure just why children make The Misfit feel so nervous. The precise reason isn't spelled out in any detail, so one can only speculate. The most likely explanation is that The...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The first detail of the grandmother's selfishness appears in the opening line: "The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida." She had plans of her own, wanting to instead visit Tennessee, and has...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

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,...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A chief way O'Connor uses foreshadowing is through introducing the idea of the Misfit early on. In the first paragraph, as the grandmother is reading the newspaper, she tells her adult son Bailey...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The grandmother is typically regarded as an unsympathetic character, and readers are generally inclined to be suspicious of anything she says. So when she calls Red Sammy Butts a good man, readers...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:57 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The Misfit is a man of contradictions when it comes to his own self-perception. Initially, he smiles a little when the frightened grandmother recognizes him, suggesting he relishes his infamy....

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

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...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 12:04 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Some of the literary elements in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" include: Symbolism: When the Misfit arrives, his car is symbolic of the danger the family faces: The car continued...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 7:11 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The first thing we learn from the conversation between the grandmother and the Misfit is that while his ego relishes the fact that she recognizes him, this recognition means beyond a shadow of...

Latest answer posted October 22, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary