The short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is one of the most known works by Flannery O’Connor. The story is concerned with the journey of a family that finishes in their death. The grandmother, who is the main character of the piece, has to go with her family to Florida, although she wants to visit her “connections” in Tennessee (O’Connor, n.d., p. 2). During the trip, the grandmother is talking about the good old days and the decency of older people. She also entices the children to make a short visit to a special place, which leads the family to an abandoned road where the grandmother’s cat provokes an accident. The family encounters a gang of The Misfit that kills them all. The Misfit has a brief conversation with the old lady concerning religion, and the good and the evil before he kills the woman. The short story was published in 1953 and remains one of the most discussed works due to the themes raised by the author. The target audience is wide as O’Connor invites people to contemplate such important aspects as religion, goodness, and societal wrongs, among others.
One of the major themes suggested by the writer is associated with the essence of good and evil. The grandmother never stops talking about good people who can hardly be found anymore. The old lady sees being decent and being a part of the white middle class as goodness. Based on her evaluations, the evil, according to the main character, is associated with being a poor colored indecent criminal. However, she faces the actual evil, The Misfit, who is a robber and murderer. The author shows that decency is not a tool to measure goodness, and it can even be quite the opposite. The grandmother’s decency is a set of nice words used to manipulate others and get everything she wants.
Religion is another important aspect addressed in the short story under analysis. This theme emerges at the end of the story when the old lady appeals to the criminal’s religiosity to save her life. Their conversation shows the overall role religion plays in a society where many people pertaining to underprivileged classes often find religion rather disappointing. Others, someone like the grandmother, see religion as the ground of the existing social order where standards and rules are established to safeguard privileged classes. Notably, the theme of good and evil is linked to the topic of religion. It is clear that both, The Misfit and the old lady, are not truly religious, and use stories about Christ to justify their views and actions.
Finally, another central theme of the short story is that of grace. Flannery O’Connor was a religious person and believed that people could achieve true grace through redemption. The two major sinners of the short story, The Misfit and the old lady, have a chance to be saved. The criminal could have been saved spiritually if he had spared the family or, at least, the grandmother. He loses his chance but saves the old lady by killing her. In her last moments, she understands or rather accepts her being evil and dies with a happy face since she reached true grace.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the short story is filled with major topics to discuss to understand human society better. Readers are invited to think and ask questions about their own position in the world. There are no clear answers to the questions, and, on the contrary, the writer makes her own perspective quite obscure, this set of unanswered questions should be properly contemplated at least at some point in human life, which can help people to find salvation and reconciliation with their selves.
O’Connor, F. (n.d.). A good man is hard to find. Gothic Digital Series. Web.