A Good Man Is Hard to Find Flannery O’Connor
About O’Connor • O'Connor described herself as a "pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you complex.“ She was born March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. • When she was six she taught a chicken to walk backwards. The PathéNews filmed her and the chicken and showed the film around the country. She said of the experience, "When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax.” • O'Connor attended the Peabody Laboratory School, from which she graduated in 1942. She entered Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College & State University), in an accelerated three-year program, and graduated in June 1945 with a Social Sciences degree. In 1946 she was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. • In 1951 she was diagnosed with disseminated lupus, the same disease her father had died of in 1937, when Flannery was 15. She was expected to live only five more years; she lived nearly 15. • O'Connor completed more than two dozen short stories and two novels while battling lupus. She died on August 3, 1964, at the age of 39, of complications from lupus at Baldwin County Hospital and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia, at Memory Hill Cemetery.
Plot Summary • The story is told by using a third-person limited narration style, with the Grandmother’s perspective being the dominant one. • The story starts off in a car, with a family on their way to Florida for a vacation. The story’s characters include the Grandmother, her three grandchildren (June Star, John Wesley and the baby), her son(Bailey) and his wife. • The grandmother does not want to go to Florida, but instead would rather go to Tennessee. She tries to subtly manipulate her son into going to Tennessee instead of Florida by saying that a criminal named The Misfit is on the loose and is headed towards Florida. The family continues on anyway. • They stop at a restaurant owned by a man named Red Sammy. They eat there and the grandmother converses with Red Sammy. They talk about how the world has changed and it is becoming more and more unsafe. Red Sammy comments that “A good man is hard to find,” to which the grandma agrees and says the “nobody can be trusted.” The family gets back on the road. • During the drive the Grandmother is reminded of the past – specifically a house that she spent time at as a young woman – and is under the impression that the house is in the area. She convinces her son to take a dirt path in order to search the house, because the children want to see it too. While on the road she remembers that the house is in Tennessee, not Georgia, and upon realizing this upsets her cat’s cage which makes the cat jump on Bailey’s shoulder which causes an accident. • The family sees a car come down the road, which they think is coming to help them. However, when the three occupants get out of the car, the Grandmother recognizes one of them as The Misfit. He then proceeds to kill them one by one, ending with the Grandmother.
Plot Analysis Questions • How do you view the Grandmother? • In the final scene, is she being selfish? • What do you think the final scene shows about the Grandmother’s character? • How do you view the Misfit? • Is he simply a criminal? Or does he represent something more? • What do you think his rant about Jesus shows about his character? • What does he mean by the line, “She would of been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life,” mean? • What role does religion play in the story? • How does religion affect your life? • If the Grandmother didn’t die, what would be another outcome? Would it be as powerful?
Sufjan Stevens • American Folk singer Sufjan Stevens wrote a song of the same title. The lyrics are meant to be read from The Misfit’s point of view: • Once in the backyardShe was once like meShe was once like meTwice when I killed themThey were once at peaceThey were once like meHold to your gun, manAnd put off all your peacePut off all the beastPaid a full of these, I wait for itBut someone's once like meShe was once like meI once was betterI put off all my griefI put off all my griefSo I go to hell, I wait for itBut someone's left me creasedSomeone's left me creased