Themes Authors use many themes in short stories. In Flannery O’Connor’s, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the story has themes that are a universal truths that can withstand the test of time. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is Flannery’s most popular piece that she wrote. The themes in the story are life’s battle with what good really is, life’s battle with religion, and life’s battle with society and class. First, life’s battle with good versus evil, the grandmother has a blurred version of what “good” really is and what it is not.
The grandmother first uses “good” with Red Sammy. “[Sammy] asks her why he let two strangers charge their gasoline [because] he got swindled and the grandmother says because he’s a good man” (SparkNotes Editors). “ In this case, her definition of good seems to include gullibility, poor judgment, and blind faith, none of which are inherently good” (SparkNotes Editors). Sammy not having good business sense and getting ripped off leads the grandmother to think he is a good man due to pity. Sammy could have been a cheat and a liar, but just because he got swindled, the grandmother calls him a good man.
The next label of good she applies to the Misfit, a criminal that escaped. “ [She] wouldn’t take [her] children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose. . . (O’Connor 575). The Misfit being that bad the grandmother still calls him good. “The grandmother’s application of the label ‘good man’ reveals that ‘good’ doesn’t imply ‘moral’ or ‘kind’”(SparkNotes Editors). Good for the grandmother is if his values align with hers, if not then that person cannot be good. In life’s battle with what good really is people need to judge based on deeds, not on if they are like others.
Secondly, life’s battle with religion is a theme in the story. There are many things that happen in life to make one lose faith or to question it. In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the grandmother and the Misfit are staged in a discussion about Jesus. The grandmother tells the Misfit to pray to Jesus “. . . even though she herself is unable to formulate a coherent prayer” (SparkNotes Editors). As the grandmother gets more and more scared about her fate of what will happen to her. “She changes her mind about Jesus’ rising from the dead. . . ”(SparkNotes Editors).
Her battle with her faith starts to wavier when a threat of death is possible. The Misfit has a battle with his own faith. “I wasn’t there so I can’t say He didn’t raise the dead. . . ” (O’Connor 583). The Misfit not having faith and just believing stops him from thinking of right and wrong. The Misfit more than likely thought about Jesus more than the grandmother ever had in her life. The grandmother’s judging stops when she has a moment of clarity and acts like a true believer in Jesus’ teaching, “ [w]hy you’re one of my babies one of my own children” (O’Connor 583).
That quote was the grandmother’s saving grace, but also was the Misfit’s saving grace too, or at least what triggered it. The realization in the Misfit occurs in the last line of the story, “It’s no real pleasure in life” (O’Connor 583). When originally it was “no pleasure but meanness” in life and killing has ceased to bring him joy perhaps the Misfit can change. Religion can be a blessing to absolute believers, or a hurdle that must be overcome to those who waver to get back on the right path. Thirdly, life’s battle with social class is a theme in the story although not a big one.
The story has many quotes alluding to class being a theme the grandmother thought herself a “lady” not a woman suggesting she was of class. The grandmother judges based on looks, race, and bloodlines or family, and the Misfit turned her judgments upside down. The Misfit said that he was from a good family or that his parents were never in trouble with the law. The judging by the grandmother gets her into trouble when dealing with the Misfit thinking she was better than him or not thinking she points him out. High and mighty social class can sometimes be a big hindrance to someone’s life.
In conclusion, Flannery O’Connor uses many themes in her story. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” has been a topic of discussion many times on theme and other aspects of the story. The truths in the story can be battled differently with each person. How someone handles life’s battle with what good really is, life’s battle with religion, and life’s battle with social classes can be a determining factor on what path someone takes. Social class battle will most likely be in school when students develop groups. Religious battle can happen every day as the Devil is always trying to prey upon the weak.
The battle with what is really good or not happens with age and meeting people in everyday life this battle never stops.