2 ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’: Issues of Morality in ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ is one of Flannery O’Connor’s most famous works. A direct effect of this renown is the extensive number of possible interpretations of the story. ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ was no exception: copious articles have been written about the significance of the story, especially about the possible religious meaning and problematic moral ambiguity. These themes can be found throughout the story, especially in the main characters, the ‘evil’ Misfitâ€¦
Time for Change in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find
Ever since the beginning of time, mankind has been searching for a higher power that will guide them through life, and show them the “true way”. Christianity is the largest religion in Western society, and it has functioned as a guiding rule, helping Christians for centuries to decide what is right or wrong.
In Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” this theme is brought up in a rather controversial way: how should you really act as a righteous Christian, and is everything really as black or white as it first may seem? This is being pushed to the extreme in O’Connor’s work, where she makes it fully clear that everybody can change and eventually reach salvation, even though some people must encounter the most extreme situations, in this case death, to reach enlightenment.
In the very beginning of the story, we get to see one of the grandmother’s basic traits; she is manipulative, and she shows no hesitation when it comes to convincing people into doing what she wants them to do.
“' Now look here, Bailey' she said… Here this fellow calls himself the Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to those people. Just you read it. 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.”
Later on, we get to see another side of her; she likes to think of herself as a superior kind of person, as somebody with class, namely a lady, and it is vital to her that everybody acknowledges this, and that 'in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady’ (O’Connor 300).
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Even so, she does not really set a good example herself, when she lies to her family about the old plantation, just to get her will through.
On the way to the plantation, the inevitable happens; they encounter the Misfit, as a result of the grandmother’s sudden whim to go and see the house. Everybody in the family, except the grandmother, was murdered, and the grandmother does nothing to try and save them.
Instead, she starts a conversation with the Misfit, and she asks him if he prays in an effort to see if he is a believer of God, and he tells her that he does not. She then says:
“Jesus, you’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
There again, is an example of her superiority, as a lady, in comparison to The Misfit. She talks to him about all the things that she highly esteem and evaluate people from: if they have good blood, if they come from nice people, whether they would shoot a lady or not.
Shortly before The Misfit murders the grandmother, she pads him on the shoulder and says: ‛Why you’re one of my babies, you’re one of my own children!' (O’Connor 309). This sentence captures the very essence of the story; that everybody can change, and reach enlightenment, despite the way they have acted before.
The grandmother realizes that the way she has been acting before was not compatible with being a Christian, and she reaches out to The Misfit and calls him her baby; she equals him with her, and she shows him that before God we are all the same, and that everybody can make this transition.
O´Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. 1953.
Flannery O’Connor, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," The Norton Introduction to Literature, eds. Alison Booth et al. Shorter 10th ed. ( London New York: Norton & Co, 2010), 299. All further reference is to this edition.