Digging no real right or wrong. “The grandmother

Digging
Deeper: A Good Man is Hard to Find

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” talks
about the story of a family that is going on a vacation trip to Florida which causes
them to meet up with an escaped murderer that goes by name of The Misfit. The
family members are your normal, basic family that has kids and an over-worked
mother; a tired and distant father and the interfering grandmother. They
encounter the Misfit and his crew after their tragic car accident which was
caused by the grandmother. She waves a random car down which she later on
recognizes that one of them was the escaped criminal called the Misfit.  Despite the newspaper article description of
the Misfit’s personality, he threatened their lives friendlier than expected
and did it pretty much oblivious from the family until it was down to the women
and the grandmother.

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There are two different crises
involved in the story. One with survival and the other dealing with religion
beliefs. The grandmother pleads with the criminal to keep them alive and change
for the better. She tells him that she knows he is a good man at heart, “I can
just look at you and tell” (149). Talking to the Misfit, this causes the
grandmother to look at the Misfit as a person with feelings rather than a criminal
that he made himself out to be with bad decisions.

This causes the confrontation in
the story between the grandmother and the Misfit to revolve around Jesus. The
grandmother brings up God and how she wants the Misfit to pray to Him, to
repent for his sins and ask for forgiveness, hoping this will get him to spare
her life. However, the Misfit has probably thought about Jesus and Christianity
more seriously than she has. This causes him to believe that there is no real
right or wrong. “The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just
behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. “Do you ever
pray?” she asked. The Misfit shook his head. All she saw was the black hat
wiggle between his shoulder blades. “Nome,” he said,” (150). The talk about
religion makes the grandmother’s later suggestions to pray seem superficial. Nothing
in the story has led for us to believe that religion was an important part in
the grandmother’s life since most of her own values deals with being “decent”
by society’s standards than religion.

While continuing to plead with him
by accepting Jesus, he disregards her request and tells her he does not want
any help.  The Misfit goes into a speech
about Jesus, “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with
Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had
committed one because they had the papers on me,” (151). Growing up, he was the
type of person who wanted answers to everything, not just believing in
something that others told him to believe. He needed proof of why he should.
The Misfit’s yearning to have all the answers caused a very complicated
situation on his part which eventually takes over his life (Woodiwiss).

He begins to get emotional when the
grandmother tells him he is basically one of her own kids. Saying this to the Misfit
causes him to recoil and hide his emotions which leads him shooting her. The
acceptance from the grandmother was mostly caused by the circumstances that her
and her family had found themselves in which creates the climax of “A Good Man
is Hard to Find”.

In O’Connor’s view, the Misfit’s
doubt made him a likely prophet. For example, Ezekiel was doubting the
significance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He insisted that
it did not mean that Yahweh had abandoned Israel. Just as Ezekiel did, the
Misfit is doubting what people, like the grandmother, considered the evidence
of redemption: good family, good manners, and respect for one’s heritage.  “From the author’s insight, he the Misfit
lives in a community that does not believe that matter can be a means of grace.
If matter cannot be a means of grace, grace cannot act through human beings,
such as an old woman like the grandmother. With this belief, the Misfit could
not appreciate the grandmother’s “humanness.” As the world being divided
between spirit and matter, or grace and nature, according to O’Connor, human
values have become divided as well. The Misfit can either follow Jesus or get
what thrills he can achieve by hurting others,” (Hendricks).

If we consider the Misfit in O’Connor’s
view of the role of the prophet, we see that he is not a monster, but a victim
of a misunderstanding of the relationship of humanity and God. O’Connor called
the Misfit a “spoiled Prophet” who “could go on to great things.” Although
O’Connor did not elaborate on that claim, it is important because she was fascinated
in the role of the prophet to what Karl Martin (the writer of “Flannery
O’Connor’s Prophetic Imagination) calls a “prophetic vision of history”. The
misfit is spoiled as a prophet because he does not understand that grace is
actually at work in the grandmother’s touch of his shoulder. He assumes that
“because of her hypocrisy and humanness and banality” the grandmother cannot
“be a medium for Grace.” In fact, he cannot believe that “grace can come
through humanity at all,” (Hendricks).

At the end of story, when the
Misfit murders the Grandmother, Bobby Lee asks him, “she was a talker, wasn’t
she?” (153), indicating that her loose tongue had caused her more trouble than
good. The misfit replies that she’d have been a “good woman…if it had been
somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life,” (153).  O’Connor comments (in a letter to John
Hawkes) that the Misfit “pronounces his judgment: she would have been a good
woman if he had been there every moment of her life.”

With this, he believes he could
have been the grandmother’s sentinel. If he had been around, he would have
warned her to give up her ordinary and hypocritical version of Christianity and
seek a deeper involvement with Christ himself (Hendricks).

Bobbly Less considers the whole
incident—six murders— “Some fun!” There is no question that Bobbly Lee’s idea
of pleasure is meanness. The Misfit corrects Bobby; “It’s no pleasure in life,”
he tells him, echoing Ezekiel 33:11: “Asllive, saithe Lord GOD, I have no
pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and
live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of
Israel?”

The Misfit is not killing the
family out of “meanness” but fulfilling a gruesome duty with no joy in doing
so. He is now, in effect, both prophet and Yahweh. The people, such as the
grandmother, have failed to respond to the sentinel’s warning, so he had
brought upon himself the sword to kill the Grandmother and her family. The
Misfit, however, is insane to even think of himself as one of God’s agent. “O’Connor
told Hawkes that she meant the grandmother to be the medium of grace: more than
in the Devil I am interested in the indication of Grace, the moment when you
know that Grace has been offered and accepted—such as the moment when the
grandmother realizes that the Misfit is one of her own children,” (Hawkins).  

The Misfit can’t believe that grace
can come through humanity at all. As O’Connor portrayed in the letter to John
Hawkes, the Misfit should be able to reference to Jesus but Jesus has been
presented to him not as a mediator but an existential challenge:

“The Misfit knows what the choice
is—either throw away everything and follow Him or enjoy yourself by doing some
meanness to somebody, and in the end, there’s no real pleasure in life, not
even in meanness. But the Misfit can’t throw away everything and follow Him
because he wasn’t there when Jesus raised the dead. As much as he would like to
believe Jesus did, the Misfit cannot, so he believes he might as well “do
meanness,” (Hendricks).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Citied

Hendricks, T.W. “Flannery
O’Connor’s ‘Spoiled Prophet’.” Modern Age
(2009): Vol. 15, 202-

210.
Document.

Woodiwiss, Anna. “Jesus Thrown Everything off Balance:
Religious Crises and Agents of Grace

in
Flannery O’Connor’s Short Stories.” 2003. Web.

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is
Hard to Find.” The Human Experience, Abcarian,
Klotz,

and
Cohen, Boston, MA: Bedford/St.Martins, 2013.  Ed. 141-153. Print.