For many centuries, literature has been used to teach, admonish, critique a people’s way of life, and establish a given theme in society. Flannery O’Connor’s piece “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” has stood as one of the most relevant literary works which serves many of the afore-mentioned roles. In her creative and artistic ways, O’ Connor combines her character choice, symbolism, and themes to raise her points. The story “A good man is hard to find” majors on the theme of the futility of man’s self-righteousness and the power of compassion and grace, which are carefully presented through the characters of the grandmother and the Misfit.
The title of the story gives a hint of the lesson one would expect from it. When O’Connor says a good man is hard to find, she does not imply what many people would perceive as goodness. According to her, goodness is rather the portrayal of moral, ethical, and accountable behavior rather than superficial goodness (Doyle 5). This trait is shown in the grandmother’s character, who is depicted as a character who gloried in her vain goodness while, in essence, she was an evil person.
One of the key literary devices employed in the story is an allusion. O’Connor makes several references to the bible in her story to show the vanity of self-interest and its tragic end. In the encounter with the Misfit, the grandmother goes to the point of denying Jesus’ attribute of raising the dead, a biblical allusion to what Peter did in the bible (Doyle 5). When the Misfit claims that “Jesus is the only one who raised the dead”, the grandmother denies that maybe he didn’t, just try to save her life though it was too late.
The end of the story features the most important message of O’Connor’s work; a good man is hard to find. Although the grandmother lived her life believing that she was better than other people like the Misfit, she faces the reality of her life at death. This can be seen as another biblical allusion depicting the fate of humanity. When O’Connor writes the grandmother’s words, “You are one of my babies”, the desperate tone reveals the grandmother’s epiphany, further adding to the theme of the story (Doyle 5). The grandmother admits that the Misfit is probably one of the products of her hypocrisy. She even calls him a good man, which the Misfit denies because he had come to terms with his own character (Doyle 5). In the end, she admits to her own sins and faces her fate, though she tried desperately to save her life.
In conclusion, “A good man is hard to find” is a story that reflects the vanity of human self-righteousness and the power of grace. In her story, O’Connor uses allusion, epiphany, tone, and creative character choices to show that, indeed, a good man is hard to find. The main message of the story is that although human beings may glory in their own goodness, true goodness is rare to find, as shown in the conversation between the grandmother and The Misfit. People will go to the point of denying the truth to save their own lives, but as shown in the story, it ends in truth and justice prevailing. A review of the above literary devices shows the creative and artistic way in which the story portrays O’Connor’s view and perspectives.
Doyle, Charles Clay. “‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’: The Proverb.” Flannery O’Connor Review, vol. 5, 2007, pp. 5–22. JSTOR, Web.