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Humanity in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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A mystery has always been how people can respect themselves even when they are looking down and humiliating other humans. Imagine knowing someone forever and seeing their fabricated character rather than their authentic character. Imagine being raised by who you think is a great person, but finding out who they really are. Lastly, imagine losing family members due to another person’s destructive actions. Good and evil are not always what they appear to be. 

In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, a gothic short story written by Flannery O’Conner, Bailey’s mother thinks of herself as being superior to everyone surrounding her. All of her family members see her phony self rather than her accurate self. Even Bailey’s mother is not aware of who she truly is. She believes she possesses many positive traits. Some of the traits the Grandmother believes she has consist of her being proper, wise, well mannered, and a wonderful woman. Although the story reveals that she is a very hypocritical woman in many approaches and scenes. “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, starts off with a family planning a trip but there is a lot of disagreement. Bailey, the father and the grandmother’s son, wants to take his family to Florida. His family insists of his wife, mother, baby, and two other children named John and June Star. John is a rowdy and ignorant young boy, and June is an obnoxious young girl. Then, the grandmother makes a statement about how she does not think the family should go to Florida. The reason she says this is because there is a dangerous killer who has escaped, heading to Florida, whose name is the Misfit. The Misfit is a criminal who has escaped from jail and murders innocent people. He is not certain on the meaning of Jesus, so he tries giving his life meaning by being cruel. The family ignores what the grandmother has to say and takes off to Florida the next morning. The grandmother decides to hide her cat, Pitty Sing, and bring him into the car to tag along on the trip. During the trip, the grandmother plays games with the kids, and then they make a quick stop at The Tower restaurant. The grandmother has a conversation with Red Sammy, who is the owner of the restaurant, and tells him how good of a man he is. They then go on to talk about the Misfit. After leaving the restaurant, the grandmother tells the children about an old plantation she once saw as a kid that was nearby, down a dirt road. The narrator states, “The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel”(342). Because of their yelling, the kids talked Bailey into heading to the plantation. The family is driving down the dirt road and there is not a thing to be seen. Then, the grandmother comes to her senses that the plantation was in Tennessee, not Florida. The narrator states, “The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner” (343). She is spooked and jerks her purse, causing her cat to jump out of her purse, right onto Bailey. Bailey rolls the car into the ditch, but nobody is killed. Patiently, the family waits for a car to approach. Eventually, a car does approach. Although, the car was not a car with ordinary people. In the car is the Misfit and two of his friends. The grandmother notices, which lowers the chances of her family’s survival. The narrator stated, “The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. ‘You are the Misfit!’ she said. ‘I recognized you at once!’” (344). The Misfit then sends John and Bailey to the woods to have his friends shoot them, and not far behind them June, the mother, and the baby. The grandmother tries talking the Misfit into praying and finding Jesus, but this does not work. The narrator states “’Pray, pray,’ the grandmother began, ‘pray, pray…’” (347). The Misfit gets his gun ready and shoots the grandmother multiple times and tells his friends to get rid of her body. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, the grandmother seems to have acts of pettiness. Her family may not realize, but as the audience, more of her negative actions stand out. Some people may view sneaking her cat in the car, for a road trip as a traditional action of a grandmother, even though bringing the cat has an extensive impact at the end of the story. In the article, “’ One of my Babies’: The Misfit and The Grandmother”, Stephen Bandy states, “Much criticism of the story appears to take a sentimental view of the Grandmother largely because she is a grandmother” (109).

 The grandmother does not listen when Bailey says to not bring the cat, and she does anyway. She does not care what other people say as long as she is getting her way, hence bringing the cat along. This is a petty act because bringing her cat along made Bailey get into a car accident. The car accident could have been prevented if the grandmother would have listened to Bailey when he said no. Bandy says, “Anyone who has traveled long with a cat might marvel at the fact that Pitty Sing has managed to remain in her basket undetected all this time” (113). This quote shows the audience that the grandmother was well aware of her petty act since she tried hiding the cat. Since she was aware of this act, that just shows more of her pettiness. The grandmother also has very many manipulation techniques. The first sign of manipulation that the grandmother shows is wanting to go to Tennessee instead of Florida. She claims that she has family Tennessee, so she wants to go there. Bailey says no, so she then goes on to saying there is a killer on the lose so they should not go. Bandy states, “To accomplish this end, she does not hesitate to dangle before his eyes the horrifying prospect of his children’s death” (113). Bailey once again says no, and she uses her manipulation to keep badgering him. She goes on to say that the children have already been to Florida, so they should not have to go again. She comes up with every excuse in the book to make them not go to Florida. Writer, Robert Rea states, “The story opens as the grandmother badgers her son, Bailey, for dragging the family on a vacation to Florida, where a serial killer is ‘a loose from the Federal Pen’”(170). The grandmother is constantly trying to get her way by using many scandalous tricks that make her seem innocent. The grandmother is set on doing whatever it takes to get what she wants, whenever she wants it. Another way that the audience may see manipulation is how The grandmother makes up things. The narrator states, “’There was a secret panel in this house’, she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were” (342). The Grandmother lies about their being a panel, just so the kids would pester Bailey into letting them go. She is very clever and her secretive with her ways of manipulation. Another way the audience can see the evil and fake acts of the grandmother is how she puts on a public face. Since she needs to have a public face just shows how fabricated she is. She feels the need to flash her money in front of strangers to prove that she is more advanced than the people around her. Showing that she is better than everyone around her makes her feel better about herself and that is an evil trait one can have. Bandy states, “As the family sets out, the Grandmother puts on her public face: carefully turned out in a lace-trimmed dress, straw sailor hat, and a sachet pinned at the neckline…” (113). The items she chose to wear seem to be very flashy and something a rich person would wear. She does not seem to be rich unless she is out in public; therefore, she is trying to act rich which makes her public self even worse. She wants to make people feel like they are below her and she is more superior. The Grandmother is very quick to say Jesus in her last minutes of living. She views the Misfit as someone who needs Jesus, but she does not think about her own actions. In the whole story, the grandmother has many occasions where she is not a kind person so the way she blurts out Jesus is surprising because her acts have not added up in loving Jesus. Rea states, “The grandmother’s spiritual epiphany occurs when she stares down the man who slaughtered her family and gasps, ‘Why you’re one of my babies’” (177). She only says Jesus because she thinks it will have some type of lure on the Misfit, which is another sign of manipulation. Rea says, “Even a diabolic monster like the Misfit has the potential to be ‘a good man’” (177). The grandmother only shows her faith when she is about to die, so that shows she is not truly faithful. She is also very feminist and acts as if she is a southern belle. A southern belle is a lady who has a certain attitude, appearance, and from the south. Before the Misfit shoots her, she asks if he would really shoot a lady. She is constantly referring to herself as a lady the whole story, and the meaning behind that is she thinks she is more fragile than men. 

Another thing she does that would shoe feminism is the way she insists to have Bailey with her everywhere she goes. The audience may view this as her incapability to be alone and needing a man figure with her the majority of the time. Critic, Peggy Shumaker states, “Being a ‘lady’ was never going to save her” (15). She manipulates people into thinking that women are superior to men. Many people are not sure how to take in how the grandmother acts with all of her feminism. For example, Shumaker states, “I still don’t know what dream Flannery was telling me, but I enjoy thinking about it” (19). In, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the main character, the grandmother, is manipulative in many ways. She thinks she is proper, wise, well mannered, and a wonderful woman, but she tries to flash the money she does not have, lies on many occasions, is very quick to say Jesus, puts on a public face, manipulates everyone, is very petty, and has her family murdered by blurting out that she recognizes the Misfit. She is not as innocent as she appears just because she is the grandmother of the story. Rae states, “Her character design retrofits Southern ladyhood as ‘an object of representation,’ a loaded image that ridicules what would have been the South’s sacred view of women” (Rea 169). But the story reveals her true self and how evil of a person she truly is.

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Humanity In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from
“Humanity In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
Humanity In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2022].
Humanity In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 22]. Available from:
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