Genres of Writing
Instructor: Dr. Youmen Shaaban
197167532893000M1 student: Khayria Abdeh
Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences
A Good Man is Hard to Find
“A Good Man is hard to Find” is one of Flannery O’Connor most famous short stories that shows the role of sin in distorting one’s true identity.
In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a family decides to go in a vacation to Florida. At first, the grandmother does not want to go there but instead wants to visit some friends in Tennessee as she heard that there’s a dangerous criminal named the Misfit. Later on, after deciding the destination she tries to convince her son Bailey to take a different route. But not even halfway through the route, the family got into a car accident and the family waits for help to come along.
For instance, it turns out that their “help” was none other than the Misfit and two of his buddies. Unfortunately the whole family, excluding the grandma, is taken into the forest by the Misfit’s friends and killed. At this moment, the grandmother who is very mean in her maternal feelings as shown throughout the story, finally becomes a mother and gushes not only with love but also with affection to a stranger who actually murders her family. The final moment of her life is transformational and reflects the irony portrayed in the story.
In fact, the true trip takes place within the life of the family. One issue that arises in the story is: what is a good man’s definition? And how few are left? Nobody is actually a hero in the story and everybody is bad somehow. Although many of the story’s protagonists believe they are good people based on their mindset and life view but they are actually shallow people and we don’t feel that we like any of them. Nobody changes or grows, they’re all disconnected, argumentative, fractious and insulting each other.
The judgmental and superficial grandmother is the major character that we see the story mostly through her eyes. Although all the interesting and entertaining things that she says we don’t like her much because she thinks that just being a lady can be enough to prevent anything to happen to her and even stops the Misfit from killing her. In addition to her selfishness and manipulative ways, she repeatedly tries to convince herself and her family, that she is the best judge on any matter.
The grandmother thinks that she has the best value system. Wearing a “navy straw hat and collars and cuffs, she overdresses entirely for the journey, so individuals would know she was a woman if there was an accident” (368). This shows how she sees all others down. She calls a little black boy “a nice pickaninny” (368) in the same sentence in which she criticizes John Wesley about the state.
Thereafter, on the Southern plantations, the grandmother paints the picture with a romantic story of the good old days. She would probably Marry Edgar Tea garden just because “he was a gentleman who bought Coca-Cola stock and made him a rich man” (369)
Ultimately, she tells The Misfit to pray for himself when he kills her family members one by one. But she never tries to beg him to spare them for her own family. Even by the time she pulls a handkerchief out to fan herself, she is dramatic and tells the Misfit “you wouldn’t kill a lady would you” (373), effectively trying to save herself instead of her own family. O’Conner tends here to present the darkness of human nature and wants to point out that people can be on the wrong path while they seem on the right one.
The Misfit appears to have his unique morals. He is the only one who is actually thoughtful in his own weird way. He can be a reprobate of twisted morals but he is well aware of himself, saying “I’m not a good man, but I’m not the worst either” (374)
He doesn’t kill for the thirst of blood, but rather tries to have happiness using his own internal logic.
This is clearly portrayed when Bobby Lee suggests that shooting the grandmother must have been fun, while the Misfit answers “It is no real pleasure in life to kill anyone” (377). This contrasts sharply with the grandmother who is unreal. The Misfit is doomed to be sinner, while everyone else can pretend that they’re not sinning.
The values and moral codes are nothing more than a set of beliefs deemed correct by a culture. The grandmother considers that values are based on how you look and where you come from or live. Although she sets high standards for herself, she lacks compassion and awareness of herself. Unlikely, the complex moral code of the Misfit that is strong and consistent allowing him to live peacefully. At least he’s true to himself, and unlike the grandmother, doesn’t lie about who he is.
A good man in this story is really hard to find. The grandmother’s label “good man” reveals that “good” does not mean “moral” or “kind.” A man is a “good man” for the grandmother if his values matches with her own. Red Sammy is “good” because he is blindly trusting people and nostalgic for more innocent times. The Misfit is “good” because he will not shoot a lady, as she supposed.
Indeed, she does not consider people as good, unless they share the same values as hers. The only good man shown in the story is the Misfit, because in spite of having a perverted moral code, he is the only one who adheres to his real principles.