Frequently anthologized, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” exemplifies Flannery O’Connor’s southern religious grounding. The story depicts the impact of Christ on the lives of two seemingly disparate characters. One is a grandmother joining her son’s family on a trip to Florida. Accompanied by a silent daughter-in-law, a baby, two unpleasant children, and her smuggled cat, she wheedles the son into making a detour to see a plantation that she remembers from an earlier time.
Moments of recognition and connection multiply as the seemingly foreordained meeting of the grandmother and the killer she has read about in the paper takes place. She upsets the basket in which she has hidden her cat; the cat lands on her son’s neck, causing an accident. Soon three men appear on the dirt road, and the grandmother recognizes one of them as the notorious killer the Misfit.
O’Connor weaves the notion of punishment and Christian love into the conversation between the Misfit and the grandmother while the grandmother’s family is being murdered. Referring to the similarity that he shares with Christ, the Misfit declares that “Jesus thrown everything off balance” (27), but he admits that unlike Christ, he must have committed a crime because there were papers to prove it. When the grandmother touches his shoulder because she sees him as one of her own children, she demonstrates a Christian love that causes him to shoot her.
This story typifies O’Connor’s mingling of comedy, goodness, banality, and violence in her vision of a world that, however imperfect, most readers inevitably recognize as part of their own. O’Connor views the world as a place where benevolence and good intentions conflict with perversity and evil, and her protagonists frequently learn too late that their lives can crumble in an instant when confronted by the very real powers of darkness.
Kessler, Edward. Flannery O’Connor and the Language of Apocalypse. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.
Orvell, Miles. Flannery O’Connor: An Introduction. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991