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Reader’s Den

The Reader's Den: Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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On the Shell Road, Mobile, Ala. Image ID: 66757

Flannery O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," originally published in the 1955 collection of the same name, has all the classic O'Connor elements: humor, irony, tragedy, and evil. It starts off innocently enough: a grandmother sets off on a road trip with her son, Bailey, and his family: a wife, two kids, and a baby.

The family is bound for Florida, despite the grandmother's protests that they ought to show the children east Tennessee. The family is clearly used to tuning the grandmother out, but when she gets her heart set on seeing an old plantation that she remembers from her youth, Bailey finally agrees to take a detour, sending the family down a road towards their end.

Oaks, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Ga. Image ID: 73884

  • The grandmother brings up the escaped criminal, The Misfit, at every opportunity. By bringing the family in to the Misfit's path, is O'Connor exploring the idea of fate?
  • The Misfit seems to align in the grandmother's mind with the negative change she sees in the world. What is O'Connor trying to say by showing the grandmother's obsession with the past, and distrust of all things new?
  • After begging for her own life, while her family is killed around her, why does the grandmother suddenly cry out "Bailey Boy" in such a heartbreaking way?
  • What finally causes the change in the grandmother, and why does she reach out to touch the Misfit? Why does he react the way he does?
  • What does the Misfit mean, when he says, "She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every day of her life"?

Thank you for participating in the Reader's Den this month! Please leave your comments in the box below. April is National Poetry Month, so please join us next week for some poetry discussion!

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