Major Themes In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find By Flannery O’Connor
The story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a grotesque yet intriguing story trademarked by a strong religious theme and Flannery O’Connor’s use of vision and foreshadowing. The author’s foreshadowing techniques and literary devices keep the reader immersed in the text, while the extremely different views of the grandmother and the Misfit on Christianity add a thought provoking, religious flair to the story. These two components make up a disturbing anecdote about an ordinary southern family’s extraordinary struggle for their lives.
The vision of Flannery O’Connor is one that is unmatched in the literary world. Her creative foresight and Southern background allow her to create an interesting setting appealing to the reader. A prime example of her literary technique is when she has the grandmother reading the article about an escaped convict running away to Florida. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is a loose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people” (O’Connor 1).
The grandmother goes on to insist the family should go on vacation to east Tennessee instead of Florida, and will not have it any other way. “The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never’ve been to east Tennessee” (2).
Religious Symbolism in "A Good Man Is Hard To Find " This paper will present a rhetorical context for the use of violence in the short story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," as she presented in her essay "The Element of Suspense." The form of classical tragedy in this story will also be analyzed from the critical theories of Aristotle and Longinus. Tolstoy will be used to examine the use Christian ...
This shows the grandmother’s officious and manipulative character traits to the reader. This selection is also here to introduce the Misfit and keep the reader wondering about why this article was read, and if it means or foreshadows anything. Another point that exemplifies O’Connor’s foreshadowing technique is when she expands on the grandmother’s self-interest in her appearance, and ends with the quote, “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor 2).
This presages that the grandmother’s selfishness and imperfect character traits will come into play later in the story, and eventually bring her to her demise, foreshadowed by the mention of death in the quote. A third instance of foreshadowing is when Bailey, the father, turns the car around to go back to a dirt road heading to a plantation where the grandmother had visited years ago. “All right,” Bailey says, “but get this: this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time” (9).
“His warning to everybody that this will be their only stop is darkly ironic” (Johansen 15).
The three above cases are perfect examples of O’Connor’s extraordinary genius and excellent foreshadowing techniques as a writer.
Another way the author makes the story more enjoyable and more thought provoking is the emphasis on differing opinions of religion. The grandmother first brings up religion when she asks the Misfit if he ever prays. She does this to see if the Misfit is a religious man that might have a kind heart and spare her life. When the Misfit answers, “No, Ma’am,” the grandmother starts to try to talk her way out of death. “Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!” (O’Connor 17).
On my first reading of this story, I initially felt the fear frequently seen in grandmothers in confronting danger and how they try to convince us to stay away from it: "The Misfit is a loose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to this people... ." , the grandmother said. As I have experienced in the past, once a Mom and Dad have made a decision to ...
The Misfit then compares himself to Jesus. In the story, the Misfit tells the grandmother he was thrown into a penitentiary for killing his father. The Misfit declares he did not do this and does not know why they threw him in prison, but the authorities have papers on him, so there is no use in trying to argue his way out of jail. He compares his case to Jesus, stating that, “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me, except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course,’ he said, ‘they never shown me my papers” (O’Connor 18).
This again shows the deep religious ties this story has. “This selection is in a sense ironic because the Misfit is the villain in the story, yet O’Connor attempts to make the reader feel sympathy towards him. Later on the story, nonetheless, it is shown that there is a strong possibility that the Misfit did kill his father, and the reader’s pity is stripped from him, leaving him bare in his own cruelty” (Johansen 7).
A third example of this religious theme is when the Misfit reveals his opinion on spiritual faith. “If He (Jesus) did what he said, then its nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can” (O’Connor 18).
By this, the Misfit means that in his opinion there is no real gray area in religion, either one chooses to believe what Jesus did or one does not, and they must accept the consequences. These three major instances serve as a foundation for O’Connor’s theme of religion.
In “A Good Man is Hard To Find”, two main plot points are the characters’ ideas about religion and the use of vision and foreshadowing. Both of these topics are well illustrated in the text by the author, providing adequate examples and planting new ideas in the readers’ mind. These two elements serve for the basis of a grotesque, yet incredibly suspenseful and provocative story that will leave you thinking and wondering.
I feel that the Grandmother in the story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" suffer from psychological conditions. She does not care at all about anyone but herself. I feel that she may even be narcissistic. It is ironic because she would be expected to look out for her family. The Cambridge Dictionary defines narcissism as "too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and / or ...
Johansen, Ruthann K. “O’Connor’s Episodic Tales of Sin.” Bloom’s Major Short Story Writers: Flannery O’Connor. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999. 25-27.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” University of Virginia. Online. Internet. <http:/xroads.virginia.edu/~DRBR/goodman.html> 11 November 2001.
Orvell, Miles. “A Critical Study of ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’.” Readings on Flannery O’Connor. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc., 2001. 117-124.