Flannery O’ Connor’s story: “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the tale of a vacation gone wrong. The tone of this story is set to be one irony. The story is filled with grotesque but meaningful irony. I this analysis I will guide you through the clues provided by the author, which in the end climax to the following lesson: “A Good Man” is not shown good by outward appearance, language, thinking, but by a life full of “good” actions.
The story begins with the grandmother trying to persuade the family not to travel towards Florida but perhaps go to Tennessee instead. This is based on the grounds that “the Misfit”, a escaped criminal is on the loose somewhere in Florida. The Ironic part of this is that the grandmother is the only family member to conceive of bad things happening to the family. She bases this solely on the fact that they were traveling in the same direction as the Misfit. This negative thinking quite possibly could have led to the eventual rendezvous between the convict and the family.
The following day the family heads off to Florida. Another major point of irony happens as the story revolves around the grandmothers traditional southern values of respect for other people; especially elders, respect for your home and country. At the same moment as the grandmother is lecturing her grand kids about respecting their home state she sees a young Negro boy and says: “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” (Pg 208). Her hypocrisy becomes evident as she wants the family to do what she says not what she does.
It’s when the family gets ready to stop for barbecued sandwiches at Famous Sam’s the first of the Symbolism is the story starts to take shape. Before they reach the restaurant the grandmother points out six fenced gravestones in a field. Three adults, two kids, and one baby make six family members. This symbolizes the fact the family will die. “The Tower” (209) is shaped like a huge tombstone or a church foreshadowing that death is coming. The Grandmother and the restaurant owner get into a discussion about how the world is not the same place it used to be back when the Grandmother was young. They discuss how people are not as nice or good as they used to be. Its ironic how all the negative thinking done by the Grandmother draws the whole family closer to the impending doom.
Next the Grandmother remembers an old plantation she visited as a young lady. She knows her son doesn’t like to make side trips so she craftily says, “There was a secret panel in this house” (211) drawing the attention of the children which in turn persuades the father to take the trip on account of the children’s fuss making. Its ironic that every time the Grandmother opens her mouth she says something negative and for every negative thing she says the story takes a turn for the worse.
As the family drives down the dirt road O’ Connor adds another clue to symbolism and foreshadowing. “The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months” (pg 212). Such a road suggests the perfect place for escaped convicts to hide. The Grandmother realizes she has made a mistake about what state the plantation is in, she remembers it was actually in Tennessee not in Georgia. Her realization shocked the Grandmother so much that she jumped in her seat causing her cat to un-settle and claw the driver, her son. The cat caused her son to have an accident and the car to flip into the ditch. This is where all the negative thoughts and decisions made by the Grandmother climax into disaster. This part also shows how egotistical the Grandmother really is, she realizes that it is her fault they came down this road but fearing for her own emotions she decides not to tell the rest of the family.
While sitting on the bank of the road trying to recuperate from the accident a car drives down the road. Three men get out of the car and once again thinking only of herself she recognizes one of the men as “The Misfit”, thus sealing her families doom.. After “The Misfit” tells her that it would have been better off for all of them if she didn’t recognize him she has a complete change in attitude. She goes from disagreeing with everything to complimenting everything and trying to convince “the Misfit” not to shoot her. The ironic thing here is the “I” the grandmother still cares not for her family, only wanting to save herself. As the rest of the family gets taken off and shot Grandmother pleads and bargains with “The Misfit”. This plea-bargaining draws to a climax when the Grandmother says “Why, your one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” “She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.”(218) This stirs something in “the misfit” and he snaps back and shoots her.
The irony at the end of this story is very interesting. O’ Connor forces the reader to wonder which characters are “Good Men”, perhaps by the end of the story she is trying to convey two points: first, that a discerning “Good Man” can be very difficult, second that a manipulative, self centered, and hollow character: The Grandmother is a devastating way to be, both for a person individually and for everyone else around them. The reader is at least left wondering if some or all of the clues to irony I provided apply in some way to the outcome of this story.