“A Good Man Is Hard to Find”: Characterization of the Grandmother’s Conscience Essay
Short Stories: “A good man is hard to find” by Flannery O’Connor The short story “A good man is hard to find” written by Flannery O’Connor is set in the south of the United States and is about an old lady and her family, consisting of her son and his wife and her three little grandchildren, who get involved into a very dangerous and finally tragic situation. After having an accident the elusive criminal The Misfit incidentally passes by their location. Being recognized as The Misfit by the grandmother, he consequently starts killing her family with the help of two companions.
Instead of begging for the lives of her son, her daughter-in-law or her grandchildren, the grandmother only tries to convince the criminal not to take her life. For the time before getting into this situation the grandmother seemed to be quite a social person which leads to the assumption that she develops to be an ironic character throughout the story, also having a dual personality concerning her attitude towards different persons in diverse situations. Focusing on the grandmother’s conscience it becomes obvious that she shows two different sides.
Although she actually wants to travel to Tennessee she appears to also be real worried about travelling to Florida because she has read about The Misfit being a fugitive murderer in that region. “[She] couldn’t answer to [her] conscience”(p. 1) if she sent her own children near such danger. So here she appeals to her conscience being a truly worried person thinking of her grandchildren and family. But this conscience especially seems to fade at the end of the story. As soon as she realizes that it is The Misfit who surrounds her, she seems to completely forget her family members also being in danger.
The grandmother only is interested in saving her own life by trying to convince the criminal not to shoot a lady like she was. (comp. p. 7ff. ) She explicitly appeals to him to save her life, not even begging for the rest of the family. This example demonstrates that her conscience may contradict in various situations. Although the grandmother believes in certain values she always tries to be seen in a better light than she actually is. She searches for the best way to profit. This becomes already obvious at the beginning of the story.
Her granddaughter June characterizes her as someone who does not want to miss anything. (comp. p. 1) As the trip begins she insists on taking her cat along because she is afraid it might get hurt in anyway when she is gone. But the real reason is that she personally would really miss it. (comp. p. 1) At their stop at the Red Sammy’s Barbecue she gets involved into a conversation with Sam, the owner of the Barbecue, talking about better times in the past also getting along the topic regarding The Misfit.
Both agree in that moment that nowadays “a good man is hard to find”(p. 4). When the family meets The Misfit at the accident location, the grandmother also immediately starts a conversation with him, trying to persuade him being a good man, although she knows him being a murderer, someone she would have never liked to meet in her life. Hence, she turns her statement which has been said before into another coherency to benefit from her statement. To finally conclude the grandmother turns out to be ironic in several ways.
She is a talkative and dominant person in conversations but uses her attitude towards topics in a way to profit by them. On the one side she cares for her grandchildren, but on the other side shows them certain facets which contradict with her actual values. The most important contradiction which the grandmother contains is her credibility concerning her love towards her family. At the end it is only her life which she focusses on and hence, ignores her family.