A Moment of Grace
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery OConnor is a very interesting and deeply emotional story of a never ending battle of good versus evil. The name of the story A Good Man is Hard to Find suggests that there was decline in worlds goodness and really brings readers attention of what makes a person a good man. With the depreciation of values and faith, it is frequently misunderstood that being a good man and being called a Christian is usually the same thing. Being a devoted Catholic herself, Flannery OConnor in her story A Good Man is Hard to Find shows that piety and values do not translate directly into goodness and only way to become a good person is to receive and experience grace by God.
The story A Good Man is Hard to Find is based on the intense clash between the two individuals who are completely different from one another. As it appears, Flannery OConnor uses this particular setting because exactly through the conflicts, often violent ones, of these protagonists who oscillate between belief and unbelief, between self-will and submission, the author presents her view of reality (Dowell 236). Flannery OConnor story makes the readers to be concerned with mans life-and-death spiritual struggle (Dowell 236) and forces them to realize that that finding grace comes with a great price to pay. The author proves it through the lives of those two individuals: the Grandmother and the Misfit.
The Grandmother is the first main character being introduced by Flannery OConnor. The interesting fact about the Grandmother is that the author is not giving away her name and just simply calls her the Grandmother. She is a perfect example of the older generation of the old South with its old values and heritage. She remembers the good times when children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then (OConnor 446). The Grandmother dresses up for the road trip like she is going to church on Sunday. Her motivation is that in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady (OConnor 446 ). She is very selfish and pushy person. In fact, if it was not for her wanting to see the old house, the family would not have met the Misfit and his gang and probably would have made it to Florida in one piece. She also thinks she is superior to other people and makes some racist comments. She called a black kid on the side of the road cute little pickaninny. Wouldn't that make a picture, now?" (OConnor 446). Despite all her flaws, the Grandmother is convinced that she is a good person and a real Christian.
The Misfit is a total opposite of the Grandmother. He is not a good man, nor is he a good Christian. Flannery OConnor presents him to the readers as a murderer and escaped convict. He is not a gentleman of any sort even though he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look (OConnor 450). By his speech the readers realize that he was not very educated man either. He is not dressed nicely. As a matter of fact, the Misfit didn't have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him (OConnor 451). He comes from different background than the Grandmother. His father was not exactly the role model for a young boy. The Misfit himself says that Daddy was a card himself. You couldn't put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them"(OConnor 452). The Misfit lost all his faith and no longer is a believer in Christ. He says, I don't want [Jesus] hepI'm doing all right by myself "(OConnor 451). It basically makes him a weapon of evil.
The whole story is filled with religious symbolisms. The characters of the Misfit and the Grandmother meet in a strangest way possible on the deserted dirt road near the town of Toombsboro somewhere in the middle of Georgia. There seems to be a religious symbol in getting off the main road and taking small dirt road. It is just like when a person steps off the righteous path of Christ and going on a separate way without his guidance. Since the good and pious Grandmother wants to see the house she visited when she was a young girl, she makes a decision to get off that path. By doing this, she has no more help from God and the most ironic thing happens to her. She meets the Misfit, the person she fears the most. She knows about him and his doings since she read in a newspaper this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did (OConnor 445). The Grandmother is warned by Red Sammy that the Misfit is nearby, but she ignores the warning and still goes towards her own path of destruction as if it was an act of faith.
The conversation between the Grandmother and the Misfit and the end of the story are vital to understand A Good Man is Hard to Find. There is a bad man, a convicted murderer who is having a full blown conversation with a good old lady about religion and Christ while the Grandmothers family is getting murdered one by one. They are talking about Misfits heritage and his background while he is putting on a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in it (OConnor 453) which belonged to her son Bailey. The Grandmothers world was in chaos and thrown off balance, but she stays true to her hypocritical self. Instead of thinking about her son, daughter-in-law and her grandchildren, the Grandmother is only worried about one and only thing. She is trying to do anything and everything for the Misfit to spare her life. She bribes him with money, but the Misfit does not accept it. Instead he says, there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip (OConnor 454). She keeps calling him a good man, she reminds him not to shot a lady, but all her efforts fall short. She tells him to pray instead of praying herself. She cannot accept that it was her time to answer her own conscience because she was the reason her entire family was killed. Instead of asking God for grace and salvation, the Grandmother is begging for her life.
The story ends with the Misfit shooting the Grandmother in her chest three times. It was the culmination point of the entire story. It was a moment her experiencing grace from God by the hands of a very unlikely messenger such as the Misfit. She acknowledges it by saying to the Misfit, Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children! (OConnor 455). For the first time in her life, the Grandmother connects to another human being on a spiritual level and finally finds her peace with God and as the author points out, the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky (OConnor 455). This is the irony of this story. The author turns the tables and switches the characters around. In the beginning of the story, the Grandmother strongly believes that she is a good person and a good Christian, but Flannery OConnor shows that a murderer who kills the Grandmother and her entire family is in fact better than she. He is a good man who helped her reexamine her life, reevaluate her commitment to God and finally receive her grace.
In a story A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery OConnor really makes people thing what does it mean to be a good man and why is it so hard to find one. According to the author to say all the right things and do all the good deeds does not make you a good man. The only way to become one is to receive grace from God regardless of your deeds. From the lives of the Grandmother and the Misfit, Flannery OConnor shows that a murderer can be a good man, but good lady cannot. The Grandmother only becomes a good person when she finally receives her grace and finally gets off her wrong path and starts following the Christ. It is not always the easy thing to do and usually comes with very tough consequences. In case of the Grandmother, she paid with her life for that lesson. In A Good Man is Hard to Find Flannery OConnor shows that even though receiving of that high reward is very pricy, the only way to really be a good man is to experience grace through any painful obstacles with the help of the Creator.
OConnor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St.Martin, 2008.
Dowell, Bob. The Moment of Grace in the Fiction of Flannery OConnor. College English,
Vol. 27, No.3 New York: National Council of Teachers of English, 1965. 235-239