A Good Man is hard to find by Flannery O'Connor

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A famous short-story A Good Man Is Hard to find written by Mary Flannery O'Connor was first published in a collection of short stories under the same name. The most popular of O'Connor's works was written in a southern gothic genre and consists of elements, ordinary for the gothic and southern American literature. The story is made by symbols. O'Connor widely used a symbolism of color emphasizing the theme of duality of human nature and portraying the conflict between good and evil. The theme of searching for ones faith is also the concern of the text.

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A Good Man Is Hard to find is full of elements of gothic literature and southern American literary traditions such as a poor countryside, dark wood, and dusty road. In Margie Burns article is explained that the main character of this story is made as a habitant of the south of America. The grandmother lives and thinks and behave according to the traditions of her native region. Her feigned piousness plays the main role in her internal conflict (Burns, M., 1991).

The main themes of this story are the duality of human nature and searching for the faith. The theme of duality of human nature is shown through the main character. The grandmother tries to seem a good person, but she is not as good as she thinks. She is the one who is searching for the faith. The grandmother manipulates her children and lies to her grandchildren to make her son act as she wants. At the beginning of the story, the grandmother reveals her egoistical and manipulative nature because she doesnt want to go where her children wants. She changes her sons mind by showing him a photo of the prison-breaker criminal in a newspaper. (Tianyuan Yao, B., 2012) The grandmothers egoistical and manipulative temper is spotted throughout the whole story. She is actually to blame for

the murder of her family. (Tianyuan Yao, B., 2012) During the whole story, a reader understands that the grandmother thinks that she is good enough to judge people around. But at the end of the story she reveals herself as a selfish person, thinking only about her safety. The grandmother is shown to care more for her own life than her familys fate. Rather than asking for her grandchildren, she entreats The Misfit not to kill her. (Tianyuan Yao, B., 2012). In this episode, the author exposes the theme of searching for the faith. The grandmother portrayed as a fake Christian. But upon the death, she comes to the full understanding of her faith. (Tianyuan Yao, B., 2012). Before her death, the grandmother finds her faith.

This story is written like a third person narration. The author doesnt indicate the narrator of her story. She uses nor a woman neither a man as a storyteller (Burns, M., 1991). All characters except the main character are flat. Not all of them even have names. And also the descriptions in this story are rather realistic which makes a great effect on the reader. The absence of names and the film-like style of prose attract readers' attention to the plot of the story. (Burns, M., 1991).

The author uses the symbolism of light describing her charcters. The positive figures described as dressed in light colors: The childrens mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print, the colors and cuffs were white (O'Connor, F., 1977) the negative figures described wearing dark clothes: One was a fat boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion embossed on the front of it (O'Connor, F., 1977). By the color of the clothes and its kind O'Connor characterizes her figures.

In A Good Man Is Hard to find the color of eyes is also symbolic. In this story, O'Connor shows the character's mood and mental state with the help of their eye color.

For example: In an episode when the family stops for a little rest at The Tower, The Grandmother's eyes described as bright when she listens to her favorite music. Another example is in an episode when Bailey tries to argue with The Misfit before criminals assistant kills him. At this moment he has "blue and intense" eyes. Then this technique was used in the next episode, when the rest of the family hears the gunshots which give a signal that Bailey and John Wesley are dead. The Mother and June Stars have "glassy" eyes. And at the end of the story, after Misfit murders Grandmother. His eyes are portrayed as " red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking."

The color symbolism is also used in a description of the settings which creates the dark and poor atmosphere of southern gothic novels. For example: a poor countryside; a dark and deep wood: She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops that made rows of green lace-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled (O'Connor, F., 1977). The combination of light and dark colors in the settings underlines the theme of the duality of human nature. The color of the sky also has a symbolic meaning and was used to create an atmosphere of the story.

The author also characterizes her figures through their actions. A bright example of this method is the grandmother shown as a racist in an episode when they saw an Afro-American child. The grandmother was teaching her grandchildren to be respectful to the parents and their native land, but shows her negative characteristic by calling an Afro-American boy a cute little pickaninny. The author underlines the negative trait of her character describing the boy as a Negro child. (Walls, D. W., 1988). This episode explains the reader that an old lady devides people onto the ones who have (white ladies and gentlemen) and ones who have-not (the niggers). (Walls, D. W. ,1988).

The text highlights the conflict good versus evil. The central conflict of A Good Man Is Hard to Find is external conflict between a criminal and his victims (The Misfit vs the Wesley family). Another conflict of the story is internal: the grandmothers illusion about goodness and reality. It is shown in a way that, grandmother cant understand the duality of human nature.

The story begins with a description of the participants of the conflict. The author portrays a family preparing for their vocation. The raising action is the family trip. In this story the trip symbolizes searching for the Faith or other words, grandmothers searching for goodness. The climax of the story starts after an accident with the appearance of a criminal and his helpers. The story quickly comes to its conclusion. After the murder of a family, one sees the duality of the criminals soul reading the end of the work.

To sum up, in the southern gothic short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find the writer presented the theme of searching for a faith and emphasize the duality of human nature through the main character and the central conflict between good and evil conveyed in a conflict between The Misfit and Baileys family. The author proves to be a master of creating a dark atmosphere. Oconnor stresses her readers attention by using the color symbolism in a description of settings and characters appearance.


Burns, M. (1991). Chapter 5: A Good rose is hard to find. Southern gothic as signs of social dislocation in Faulkner and Oonnor. In D. B. Downing & S. Bazargan (Eds.), Image and ideology in modern/post modern discourse (pp. 105-127). State University of New York Press.

Desmond, J. (2004). Flannery O'Connor's Misfit and the Mystery of Evil. Renascence, p. 129138.

Tianyuan Yao, B. (2012). A test of Faith: Analysis on "A good man is hard to find". Milestones, 8, 10-13.

O'Connor, F. " A Good Man Is Hard to Find." A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Print.

Walls, D. W. (1988, Winter). O'Connor's "A good man is hard to find". The explicator, 46 (2), 43-45.

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