• Jacob Hess

A Good Man Is Hard To Find: A Story By O'Connor

Updated: Jan 12

Today we will be exploring a popular story by Flannery O’Connor. It’s a sad story, one that plays with some interesting themes. I will explore some of them here, but be sure to comment me below or message me if you have any thoughts of your own.


A Good Man Is Hard To Find follows the sad tale of a Southern family on vacation. Their trip takes a terrible turn when the family’s car crashes and they are found by an escaped convict nicknamed The Misfit. The story follows the drastic attempts of the Grandmother pleading for her life and the lives of her family as they are brutally murdered by The Misfit and his cronies.


In my opinion, one of the most interesting parts of this story is The Misfit’s reasoning behind his life of crime. He says to the Grandmother, “‘Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead…’” ‘“If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can.’” [1] I believe O’Connor was hitting at an important point with these words. For O’Connor, this is more than the crazed thinking of a murderer, rather she saw it as the logical outcome of a modern secular understanding of the world, one that has no place for faith. This can be seen in The Misfit's disappointment in not being able to prove Jesus’ resurrection. He says, “‘It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had been there I would of known. Listen lady,’ he said in a high voice, ‘if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.’”[2] Without evidence to prove Christ’s resurrection The Misfit is left to his own devices, to live a life “‘the best way’”[3] he sees fit, which is the only kind of life that O’Connor saw a modernistic and naturalistic understanding of the world leading to. Not a life marked by gradual progression, but one marked by selfish ambition and meaninglessness.


In A Good Man Is Hard To Find the self-righteous Grandmother also learns a valuable lesson as O’Connor reveals that even this Misfit can be an avenue of God’s interrupting grace. Near the end of the story, in a last attempt to save herself, the Grandmother says to The Misfit, ‘“Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children.’”[4] She then reaches out and touches him, which prompts The Misfit to shoot her three times in the chest. The Grandmother falls dead, “with her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.”[5]


Though the Grandmother died from her encounter with The Misfit she was also freed from her self-righteous falsehood and oppression. Ralph Wood writes about this last gesture of the Grandmother, “In this single saving gesture that costs her her life, the Grandmother at last drops off all her fearful self-justification, all of her vain attempts to stay alive at whatever price. Finally she tells the truth: she is not a good woman; he [The Misfit] is not a good man; they both are in terrible trouble, and they both need radical help.”[6] The Grandmother at last sees herself for what she is, causing all false notions of perfection and righteousness to be washed away by the sting of the grace-filled interruption of the realization of her sinfulness.


In this story the Grandmother becomes the representation of all those Christians who are blinded from their sin by the trappings of self-justification[7] as well as the representation of all those faced with the atrocities of the modern age. O’Connor seems to believe that God can even use the horrors of the modern world as avenues of grace that reveal our need for a redemption not of our own making just as The Misfit was used as an avenue of grace in the life of the Grandmother.


 

[1] Flannery O’Connor, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find." In Flannery O'Connor: The Complete Stories. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971) 132.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ralph C. Wood, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South. 39.

[7] Ibid.


 

If you enjoy reading short stories be sure to sign up for my email list below and I will send you a free copy of my short story The First Encounter straight to your inbox! You can also pick up a copy of my book The Bright Abyss by following the link here.




23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All