A Good Man Is Hard to Find


The short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor could be viewed as a comic strip about massacre and martyrdom. What stops it from becoming a solemn story is its intensity, ambition, and unfamiliarity. O'Connor blends the line between humor and terror. She introduces her audience to the horror of self-love. The grandmother is thought of by the community as agood person and appears to be so on the surface, but she is also mean and narcissistic. She forces her family to abide by her wishes; she sees them as an extension of herself; and she seizes every opportunity to get what she wants. By manipulating her grandchildren, she gets her son to go back to the
house with the "secret panel", causing them to meet The Misfit, and ultimately sealing the entire family's death. O'Connor makes the trite seem sweet, the humdrum seem tragic, and the ridiculous seem righteous. The reader can no longer use their textbook ways of interpreting fiction and human behavior because O'Connor is constantly throwing our assumptions back at us.
Through out "A good man is hard to find" O'Connor reinforces the horror of self-love through her images. She contrasts the two houses, The Tower: the restaurant owned by Red Sammy, and the plantation house. The restaurant is a "broken-down place"- "a long dark room" with a tiny place to dance. At one time Red Sammy found pleasure from the restaurant but now he is afraid to leave the door unlatched. He has given in to the "meanness" of the world. In contrast to the horrible Tower is the grandmother's peaceful memories of the plantation house that is filled with wonderful treasures. However, the family never reach this house because this house does not even exist on the this dirt road or even in the same state. Because of the grandmother's pride she cannot admit that she has made a mistake. "'It's not much farther,' the grandmother said and just
as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up...." (144). The grandmother's pride and self-centered wish to see the house causes the Misfit to discover and murder the family. Both houses are, in effect, ruins of the spirit.
It is a comic view of the family that the reader receives in the first half of the story. The comedy is in the way O'Connor has very matter of factly and nonchalantly reported the characters outlandish actions and appearances. O'Connor has made this even more funny by not appearing to tell it in a funny way. The grandmother is the funniest and most colorful of the characters in the story; she is pushy, annoying, and at times an endearing grandmother. O'Connor makes the grandmother a target for her satire right from the beginning by exposing her absurd wardrobe and old-fashioned mannerisms.
"...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 thatshewas a lady." (138)
The last line becomes ironically funny because ultimately this is where the grandmother ends up- in a ditch dead. As a reader one must then question the seriousness of the author towards her characters and should the reader have a sympathetic view towards these characters when they are being presented to an audience as comical figures and an elaborate joke. If more attention is paid to the story's self-conscious technique, then the reader can adjust their sympathies in a way that would coincide with the story's style.
The first words uttered in the first pages of "A good man is hard to find" are directed to the reader almost as much as they are directed to Bailey: "Now look here, ...see here, read this." (137). The reader themselves are rustling the pages of the story almost simultaneously as the grandmother is shaking the newspaper at Bailey. Cleverly, O'Connor has