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A Summary of A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

As with many types of Literature, short stories are often riveting and full of suspense. The likes of Edgar Allan Poe (who is the father of short stories) and William Faulkner are great story tellers that the readers of their short stories are amazed and piqued by the turn of events that usually end up in the unexpected and the horrible. The same thing can be said of Flannery O’Connor who wrote such controversial pieces as well: “her message was misunderstood by many, chiefly Catholics, who were offended by her use of shocking, grotesque Southern characters, her use of violent situations and her acerbic wit” (Simpson xi).

O’Connor is very famous for her short stories that contain “violent situations” such as the story A Good Man is Hard to Find which will be summarized and analyzed in this paper. A Good Man is Hard to Find is the most famous of all O’Connor’s short stories compared to any of her other literary works (Asals 3). It starts with the description of the Grandmother of the family who does not want to go on a trip to Florida as she insists on going to Tennessee to see her friends.

She even manages to psychologically banter her son Bailey, as she points out about the misadventures and dangers of a man named The Misfit who escapes prison and is known around the Florida area. Yet, the family wins over her and she is forced to go to Florida. In this early stage of the story, the reader can already imagine the grandmother and what her attitude and personalities are as a character. The grandmother has unknowingly given a possible conflict in the story in the case of bringing The Misfit’s name regarding their Florida trip.

This can be interpreted in many ways—one would be that the grandmother is greatly concerned about the family that she does not want them to run into the possibilities of getting harmed or killed; another interpretation could be that she is merely using The Misfit’s name to get her way and not go through with the Florida trip; for a third interpretation, she could be seen as the weakest person in a sense that she has no influence whatsoever regarding her family, and she is not respected both as a person and as an elder.

There were moments wherein the mother and the father (Bailey) feigned that they were not able to hear anything the grandmother was saying (O’Connor 30-31). The grandchildren, John Wesley and June Star, are both very disrespectful to the grandmother at the start of the story and all throughout the narration. June Star most especially ridicules and offends the grandmother so much, but the parents do not do anything about it at all.

Yet, the grandmother has an obvious affectionate regard for June Star as she has a background of curling June Star’s hair which depicts that they have their moments of being together in a loving and affectionate level—June Star retorts, however, that her “hair is naturally curly” (O’Connor 32). The story resumes in the scene wherein the family is loading the car so they can go to their Florida trip. The characters of the story are described according to what they are doing as they load the car. It centers mostly on the grandmother and her eccentric manner that borders between being ladylike and haughty.

Ironically, she is the one who is the most prepared and has already loaded her things in the car and is already seated inside: The old day settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the black window…the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet.

In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (O’Connor 33) This excerpt clearly describes the grandmother on how she is as a person. Although she is depicted as someone disrespected and scorned by her own family members, a reader may have some conclusion and judgment about why this is the case. When the scene of the family leaving the house was described, it seemed that the grandmother was more concerned with her cat, Pitty Sing, to be more comfortable and at ease than her only son who does not like to “arrive at a motel with a cat” (O’Connor 32).

Moreover, the grandmother even took notes of how many miles they were covering for their trip so she can tell her son later on, probably as to make snide remarks regarding the mileage they were covering. The story continues with the family enjoying the scenery of the places they are seeing—in the case of the grandmother, that is. The children are so annoyed with the fact that they have to see the scenery that they even retort that the father should drive so fast so they would not have to see their surroundings anymore.

In this scene, the grandmother already makes the ultimate remark about how disrespectful the children are, telling them that during her time, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else” (O’Connor 34); as the story continues, the grandchildren and the grandmother passes time during their travel by reading comic books, eating during the trip, and playing with their imagination by playing a game with the clouds that they were seeing during the trip.

The grandmother tells a story then for the benefit of the grandchildren and makes them laugh. She tells a story of the past when she was courted by a gentleman that brought her watermelons every Saturday. The family then stops over The Tower to eat and they meet Red Sammy who makes very delicious barbecue sandwiches which make him famous. This part of the plot turns for the worse regarding June Star’s open display of disobedience and lack of respect.

Red Sammy comments how a wonderful, cute little girl June Star is when she dances a tap dance to a modern tune played in The Tower’s jukebox. Red Sammy comments if she would like to be his own daughter and June Star snaps back that she “wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks! ” (O’Connor 36). The grandmother reprimands the granddaughter, and yet, the parents remain oblivious to the incident. Red Sammy and the grandmother engage each other on a conversation about how “a good man is hard to find” (O’Connor 38).

In that context, the author finally mentions the title of the story and its connection to the characters which will be later revealed at the end of the story. Red Sammy tells a story of how two young men who seem gentlemanly that Red Sammy gave “the fellers charge the gas they bought” (O’Connor 37). The conversation turns to The Misfit and his escape, Red Sammy comments how different things are from before; for instance, “you can leave your front screen door unlatched” (O’Connor 37) and that “a good man is hard to find” (O’Connor 38).

The family leaves The Tower and continues on their trip to Florida. About this time, the story takes on a different turn as the grandmother tells a story about a house that she knows around the area. She recalls an old house in an old plantation that she describes to the grandchildren. Nostalgia fills her that she greatly desires to see if the house is still standing.

She even tells a lie so that the grandchildren would be so insistent and persistent on making the father go to the house even if Bailey would be very aggravated with the idea that they would have to detour just to satisfy the grandmother and the grandchildren’s whim: “‘There was a secret panel in this house,’ she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, ‘and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found’” (O’Connor 39).

The father finally consents to the idea of visiting the old house after much argument and uproar caused by the grandchildren. As the grandmother directs the father to the direction of the old house with the secret panel, she realizes that the house is located in Tennessee and not in Georgia. The mere thought that she has made such a ghastly mistake causes her to knock over her valise. This causes a domino effect as the cat, Pitty Sing is startled that he jumps on Bailey which causes the car to accidentally upend.

The car accident shakes them so much that they all have different reactions: the grandmother is horrified, the grandchildren are excited, and the father and the mother are both passive. A vehicle comes along with three men riding in it and the grandmother call on for their help. This call for help will soon determine their future—or the lack of it. The men help the grandmother, and they are discovered to carry guns. The grandmother exclaims that the leader of the men looks familiar, and he is later on identified as The Misfit himself.

The Misfit orders his two men to kill Bailey and John Wesley and later on the mother and the baby. All these time, the grandmother talks to The Misfit about himself and convinces him that he is a good man and that he can walk away from all the things that he has done and will be doing. The grandmother is desperately convincing The Misfit about the existence of Jesus Christ, of the importance of praying, that he comes from a good family, and that he is merely misunderstood by the society for condemning him to be a killer and a bad person: “Finally she found herself saying, ‘Jesus.

Jesus,’ meaning, Jesus will help you… ‘You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! ’” (O’Connor 50). The Misfit eventually kills her when the grandmother touches him. The three men talk about the grandmother, and one of the men by the name of Bobby Lee declares that the grandmother says a lot and The Misfit agrees. The story concludes with The Misfit’s statement, saying that there is “no real pleasure in life” (O’Connor 53).

While the title may be pertaining to The Misfit as being not “a good man,” it could also be referring to the grandmother as she is not really “a good [wo]man” which she thinks she is. The grandmother becomes such only when she is faced with the possibility of imminent death. Hence, the short story depicts a situation wherein the goodness of a person only comes out when it is forced to come out. The grandmother’s goodness (in that she was trying to convince The Misfit that he is good) only materialized when she was about to die.

Thus, the statement of The Misfit declaring that, “She would of been a good woman… if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” is more than appropriate (O’Connor 53). Works Cited Asals, Frederick. “Introduction. ” A Good Man is Hard to Find. Ed. Frederick Asals. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993. 3–28. O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find. ” A Good Man is Hard to Find. Ed. Frederick Asals. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993. 31–53. Simpson, Melissa. Flannery O’Connor: A Biography. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2005.

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