Deeper: A Good Man is Hard to Find

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” talks
about the story of a family that is going on a vacation trip to Florida which causes
them to meet up with an escaped murderer that goes by name of The Misfit. The
family members are your normal, basic family that has kids, a strung-out mother,
a distant father, and an interfering grandmother that wants her way most of the
time. They encounter the Misfit and his crew after their tragic car accident
which was caused by the grandmother. She waves a random car down which she
later on recognizes when the people get out of the car that one of the
passengers was the escaped criminal called the Misfit.  Despite the newspaper article description of
the Misfit’s personality, he threatened their lives friendlier than expected
and did it pretty much oblivious from the family until it was down to the women
and the grandmother.

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There are two different crises
involved in the story. One with survival and the other dealing with religion
beliefs. The grandmother pleads with the criminal to keep them alive and change
for the better and to follow the path of Jesus. She tells him that she knows he
is a good man at heart, “I can just look at you and tell” (149). Talking to the
Misfit, this causes the grandmother to look at the escaped criminal as a person
with feelings rather than a criminal that he made himself out to be with bad decisions.

This causes the confrontation in
the story between the grandmother and the Misfit to revolve around Jesus and Christianity.
The grandmother brings up God and how she wants the Misfit to pray to Him to
repent for his sins and ask for forgiveness, hoping this will get him to spare
her life. However, the Misfit has probably thought about Jesus and Christianity
more seriously than she ever has in her whole lifetime. Thinking and studying
about the religion causes the Misfit to believe that there is no real right or
wrong or even a real purpose in life altogether. “The grandmother noticed how
thin his shoulder blades were just behind his hat because she was standing up
looking down on him. “Do you ever pray?” she asked. [The Misfit] shook his
head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle between his shoulder blades. “Nome,”
he said,” (150). The talk about religion makes the grandmother’s later
suggestions to pray seem superficial. Nothing in the story has led for us to
believe that religion was an important part in the grandmother’s life since
most of her own values deals with being “decent” by society’s standards than
religion, until she caught herself up in a life or death situation.

While continuing to plead with the
Misfit by accepting Jesus, he disregards her request and tells her he does not
want any help from Him. The Misfit then goes into a speech about Jesus telling
the grandmother that He basically caused everything to be off balance for him
in his life and how much similar they were in comparing how they were punished
for doing crimes. Despite that Jesus knew exactly what his was for, the Misfit
did not, which made him confused and possibly resent the religion altogether. Growing
up, he was the type of person who wanted answers to everything, not just believing
in something that others told him to believe. He needed proof of why he should.
The Misfit’s yearning to have all the answers to things people could not give
him caused a very complicated situation on his part which eventually takes over
his life (Woodiwiss).

He begins to get emotional when the
grandmother tells him he is basically one of her own kids. Saying this to the Misfit
causes him to recoil and hide his emotions which leads him shooting her because
he has got use to feeling alone in the world and not having anyone there for
him to actually accept him in their life.  This acceptance seems really out of character
for someone like the grandmother who seems very judgmental. Due to this, it
seems that the acceptance was mostly caused by the circumstances that her and
her family had found themselves in which also creates the climax of “A Good Man
is Hard to Find”.

In O’Connor’s view, the Misfit’s
doubt made him a likely prophet. For example, Ezekiel was doubting the
significance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He insisted that
it did not mean that Yahweh had abandoned Israel. Just as Ezekiel did, the
Misfit is doubting what people, like the grandmother, considered the evidence
of redemption: good family, good manners, and respect for one’s heritage.  “From the author’s insight, he [the Misfit]
lives in a community that does not believe that matter can be a means of grace.
If matter cannot be a means of grace, grace cannot act through human beings,
such as an old woman like the grandmother. With this belief, the Misfit could
not appreciate the grandmother’s “humanness.” As the world being divided
between spirit and matter, or grace and nature, according to O’Connor, human
values have become divided as well. The Misfit can either follow Jesus or get
what thrills he can achieve by hurting others,” (Hendricks).

If we consider the Misfit in O’Connor’s
view of the role of the prophet, we see that he is not a monster, but a victim
of a misunderstanding of the relationship of humanity and God. O’Connor called
the Misfit a “spoiled Prophet” who “could go on to great things.” Although
O’Connor did not elaborate on that claim, it is important because she was fascinated
in the role of the prophet to what Karl Martin (the writer of “Flannery
O’Connor’s Prophetic Imagination) calls a “prophetic vision of history”. The Misfit
is spoiled in a way for a prophet because he cannot understand the meaning of
grace and how it really works. He thinks that because of how the grandmother
had a tendency to be a hypocrite that she could not be a “medium of grace” or
even believes that grace cannot come from humanity in general (Hendricks).

At the end of story, when the
Misfit murders the Grandmother, Bobby Lee asks him, “she was a talker, wasn’t
she?” (153). This indicates about how her speaking everything that comes to her
mind has brought her more trouble than good. The misfit replies that she would
have been a “good woman…if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute
of her life,” (153).  O’Connor comments in
a letter to John Hawkes that the Misfit means that she would have a been a good
woman if there was someone like him to be by her side her whole life correcting
everything she did. With this, he believes he could have been the grandmother’s
guardian. If he had been around, he would have warned her to give up views and
beliefs of Christianity and seek a deeper involvement with Christ and religion.

Bobby Lees considers the murdering
of the family enjoyable which leads to that there is no question that Bobby Lee’s
idea of pleasure is pure evil.  The
Misfit corrects Bobby; “It’s no pleasure in life,” he tells him, basically
saying the same line from Ezekiel 33:11: “I have no pleasure in the death of
the wicked”.

The Misfit is not killing the
family out of evil but fulfilling a gruesome duty with no joy in doing so. He
is now, in effect, both prophet and Yahweh. The people, such as the
grandmother, have failed to respond to the guardian’s warning, so he had
brought upon himself the act to kill the Grandmother and her family. The
Misfit, however, is insane to even think of himself as one of God’s agent. “O’Connor
told Hawkes that she meant the grandmother to be the medium of grace: more than
in the Devil I am interested in the indication of Grace, the moment when you
know that Grace has been offered and accepted—such as the moment when the
grandmother realizes that the Misfit is one of her own children,” (Hawkins).  

The Misfit can’t believe that grace
can come through humanity at all. As O’Connor portrayed in the letter to John
Hawkes, the Misfit should be able to reference to Jesus but Jesus has been
presented to him not as a mediator but an existential challenge:

“The Misfit knows what the choice
is—either throw away everything and follow Him or enjoy yourself by doing some
meanness to somebody, and in the end, there’s no real pleasure in life, not
even in meanness. But the Misfit can’t throw away everything and follow Him
because he wasn’t there when Jesus raised the dead. As much as he would like to
believe Jesus did, the Misfit cannot, so he believes he might as well “do
meanness,” (Hendricks).


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