In A Good Man is Hard to Find, the author, Flannery O’Connor, focuses heavily on the suggestion of “good” in the story’s characters. However, the perception of what makes a person “good” is different for each character. I believe that an individual’s upbringing and placement in society determine that person’s definition of what makes one “good.” Subsequently, I believe that a person can only be considered “good” based on his or her intentions and actions. To the grandmother, being “good” means to be proper and lady-like. She was very concerned with her appearance, and even felt the need to dress up for the family road trip. To sit in the car, she wore white cotton gloves, a navy blue dress with elaborately- trimmed cuffs and collar, and a navy blue straw sailor hat with violets on the brim. (Meyer 368) The grandmother associated “looking good” with “being good.” To her, she felt that she was a “good” person because she fulfilled the social typecast of being a mannered, proper, and well-dressed lady. Conversely, after examining her persona in the text, I do not feel that she is “good” under my standards. Represented by her thoughts and actions, I feel that she is manipulative and self-centered.
In several instances throughout the story’s timeline, the grandmother manipulated the people around her to achieve individual gain. In the beginning, she tried to convince her son to change the destination of family road trip. Although everyone else wanted to visit Florida, the grandmother wished to travel to Tennessee in order to connect with some of her old acquaintances. In order to accomplish this, she kept making excuses as to why the family should go to Tennessee instead. Secondly, the grandmother lied about the features of an old house in order to influence the children to pressure their father into making a detour. The story states: “she [the grandmother] knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. “There was a secret panel in this house,” she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were.” (Meyer 371) With this proclamation, she fabricated a tale in an attempt to provide herself with the satisfaction of visiting a house that meant nothing to anybody besides herself.
Lastly, manipulative and self-centered motives are clear when the grandmother was speaking with The Misfit, as his men killed her entire family. The grandmother worried only about saving herself, and hardly even acknowledged that the other members of her family were being murdered. In that same situation, I would expect a person to not only beg for his or her own life, but for the lives of his or her relatives as well. It seems as though this thought did not even cross the grandmothers mind, further proving that her interests were narcissistic. To Bailey, the father and husband, being “good” means to be a devoted leader of the family. Although he doesn’t speak much and doesn’t have the most pleasant personality, his actions verify that his intentions are focused on the good of the entire family, not just himself. Bailey brought the family on vacation even though we are told that driving makes him nervous, he made a detour so the children could see the old house even though he didn’t want to, and while facing the outlaws, he tried his best to help his family– not just himself.
When The Misfit started to take Bailey and John Wesley away, Bailey tried to defend his family by saying “Listen, we’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is.” (Meyer 374) Instead of asking to be spared, he tried to alleviate the entire family from the situation. In my opinion, I absolutely feel that Bailey is “good” because both his intentions and his actions show that he cares about his family and is concerned about the well-being of the whole group. I believe that a person can only be considered “good” based on his or her intentions and actions. Concentrating on the grandmother and Bailey, I do not believe that they were both “good.” While Bailey concerned himself with the good of the family, the grandmother focused on only her personal well-being. After reading A Good Man is Hard to Find, I determined that although each character felt they were “good,” to my standards this was not the case.
Meyer, Michael.The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 8th Edition. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 367-377. Print.