Analyzing a Good Man Is Hard to Find
Times Change and So Do Values As a child, our parents teach us values and principles. Most of the time the values they teach have been handed down through their families and changing them slightly to adapt to the time and culture. What if parent’s don’t teach their kids ethical values? What if over the years, people have decided that certain principles has become obsolete? A case in point is the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner. This story is a prime example of how people’s morals change throughout history.
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I propose that in order for us to get a better understanding of this story we need to analyze the theme of the story, evaluate the nature of the grandmother, and explore what the grandmother’s hat represents. The story focuses on the breakdown of society’s morals and values. The grandmother makes reference to the way children behaved in her time. As her grandchildren make disrespectful remarks to her, the grandmother replies, ” In my time, children were more respectful to their native states and their parents and everything else.
People did right then” (251). She is comparing the way children act now to the way they acted in earlier times. In earlier times, children and people in general had more respect for each other. The people did not back talk their elders as they are doing in this story. While stopping to get something to eat, the grandmother strikes up a conversation with Red Sammy, the owner of the restaurant, who shared the same opinion with the grandmother. Red Sammy tells the grandmother, ” A good man is hard to find, everything is getting terrible.
I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more” (252). Sammy is describing society as a whole. He is implying that people should not leave their houses unlocked as in previous times, in fear of someone breaking into their house and stealing from them or worse. The story concludes with the Misfit and his cohorts showing not regard for the family they killed. The Misfit tells one of his partners, ” Take her off and thow her where you thown the others” (257) and the partner replies: “What fun! ” (257).
These lines go to show that morals of society have changed and will continue to change. If the writer, Flannery O’Connor, believed the values of society would improve, she would have made the ending happier or justified so that the criminals would have been caught. Instead she is indicating where America’s values are headed. Throughout the story the grandmother tries to manipulate people into doing what she wants. She is trying to convince her son Bailey to go to Tennessee like she wants to, instead of going to Florida when she states: ” Now look here Bailey, see here, read this.
Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to those people. Just read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did” (250). She is trying to manipulate her son into not going to Florida by telling him that he will be putting himself and the rest of the family in danger because of the possibility of running into the escaped convict.
Another way she used manipulation to try to get her way was when she began talking about a house she visited when she was younger. The more she talked about, the more she wanted to go see if the house was as she remembered it, but knowing that Bailey would not want to stop and waste time to see it, she tried a different way of getting what she wants (253). She cleverly begins to tell the kids a story that was not true, but she wished it were when she says, ” There was a secret panel in this house and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman cam through but it was never found… (253). The grandmother knew that Bailey would not listen to her request to visit the house, so she decides to get the kids intrigued with the house by telling them that there is a secret treasure buried in the house so they would want to visit the house as well and then they can convince Bailey to take them there. The last person she tries to manipulate is the Misfit. Once she admits to the Misfit, that she knows who he is, she worries that he might kill her.
She says to him, “You wouldn’t shoot a lady” (255) and more than once she told him that he was a good man who did not have common blood and who must have come from a nice family (255 & 257). The grandmother is trying to get the Misfit to believe he is an honorable man that would not kill her. Throughout all the manipulative attempts the grandmother made, none of them worked. They still went south headed toward Florida, she never got to see the house she remembered, and the Misfit did not have faith that he was a good enough man not to shoot a woman.
The grandmother’s hat is an important symbol in the story. The hat represents how the grandmother perceives herself to be a self righteous lady with high principles. On the beginning of their journey she dresses in her nice clothes and hat. The grandmother’s attire is described as ” a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace” (251).
The narrator is painting a picture of a lady dressed in her Sunday’s best clothes and gives the reason of the grandmother’s choice of clothes being that if there was an accident on the way, the people who found her would know she was a lady (251). This shows that the grandmother does not want people to think of her as anything less than a lady and also foreshadows the events to come. During her encounter with the Misfit, the grandmother’s self image changes. The narrator states: “The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand.
She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground” (255). This symbolizes how the grandmother begins to reject her self-image as the Misfit’s cohorts escort her son and grandson into the woods to be killed. The hat falling to the ground represents the grandmother’s self-image of herself as a lady dissolving. With this the grandmother realizes she has been viewing herself as righteous, but she now knows she has lived her life with poor ethics. It should now be evident that “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a complex story.
This should be evident because we realize the theme for the story is the values and morals of society are collapsing. This is apparent if we understand that the nature of the grandmother is manipulative. The complexity of this story is obvious when we realize the grandmother’s hat signifies her self-image as lady and she realizes that she has not led a righteous life. Works Cited O’Conner, Flannery, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, Literature: A World Of Writing, Acosta, Ana M. , Pike, David L. , First Edition, New York, Pearson, 2011.