A Good Man is Hard To Find

Write a paper about either “A Good Man is Hard To Find” using the short story and The Misfit screenplay or  “Where are you going?  Where have you been?” using the short story and the other information in casebook (Bob Dylan Lyrics, Pied Piper etc.) to answer the questions below.  5-7 pages – MLA style.

1) What is the subject of the story, and what does the story reveal about that subject?

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2) How are human beings portrayed in the short story? Do they come across as fundamentally flawed and selfish? Do they come across as heroic? Does the story present a mix?

3) How does the author portray different characters? Are they typified? Are they round? Do they embody any highly negative qualities? Do they have any redeeming qualities? If some characters are portrayed as “good,” what good things do they do? If they are flawed, how are they flawed, and to what extent?

4) How does the author portray the society in which the characters live? Is it a life-enhancing or a life-destroying society? Are the characters we care about in conflict with their society? Do they wish to escape their society? Are they trapped by it? Do they want to change it, and if so, why?

5) What control over their lives do the characters have? What controls and governs their choices? To what extent are they “free” to choose, and to what extent are their choices controlled by social forces, by the forces of their own passions, or by fate? To what extent are they to blame for their actions?

6) Who serves as the moral center of the work? Is there one? Do you think there is always a need for one in every work of fiction? If you feel there is one in the novel/story you are presently reading, what does the author do to convince you of this? What values does the moral center embody? What effect does the moral center have on the other characters?

7) What conflicts are in the story? What kind of conflicts are these? Are they material, emotional, moral, spiritual? Are these conflicts clear-cut or ambiguous? Is someone clearly right and someone clearly wrong? Why or why not? Does right win in the end? If it doesn’t, why not?

Sample Answer

A Good Man is Hard to Find

The subject of the short story

Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Good Man is hard to find is a fiction that illustrates the contemporary society that has allowed poor morals to overtake the new generation in decision making and all another social aspect. Through the fictions journey of the family members to Georgia, the author reveals the change of behaviors as the Grandmother argues with the young family on the places to take the kids for a vacation (O’Connor1). The revelation of a Misfit foreshadows the begging of the story where the Grandmother reads from a newspaper of the Misfit heading to Georgia reveals on the rot of morals in the society. The trend looks to influence young people as Wesley courageously suggest that the grandmother who is uncomfortable of touring Georgia should remain in the house.   Additionally, the short story reveals the moral codes that affect people’s actions, decisions and perceptions as we realize at the end of the piece entailing the two main characters, the Grandmother and Misfit. Due to the different set of believes each has, they have different ways of life hence the assertion that righteousness of a person’s morals is subjective. Through the corruption of the society and the encroaching dogmas, it is evident that it is hard to find a good man.

The portrayal of human beings in the short story

Flannery O’Connor’s work reveals different kinds of persons in the society as guided by the morals they subscribe to, which differ from one person to the other. Through the character who plays the role of a grandmother, for example, there is an indiscriminate definition of good as the character uses the term on different occasions. To the restaurant occupant, for instance, Red Sammy, the grandmother claims that he is ‘a good man’ even after angrily claiming that he does not trust people (O’Connor 37). Additionally, the character applies the term to the Misfit, which sounds ironic from the background we have with the grandmother reading about him in a Newspaper. From the two situations, the application of the term ‘good’ seems to have reduced judgment, of blind faith and to include gullibility hence has a narrow approach to it. A positive attribute to the same would leave people in a better situation than the one Misfit leaves the family in even after involving in an accident.

The short story also presents humans as entities untrustworthy in many decisions and engagements. Red Sammy who gives services to two strangers on credit only to be swindled by the two confirms the concept (O’Connor 36). The act of mercy and trust that they will appreciate after charging their gasoline proves opposite hence the loose of confidence to all humans by the restaurant operator. The former morals which human had seemed to be vanishing as new generation come in and makes the society to suffer. Another aspect of mistrust as revealed by the author is when Red’s wife claims that she even does not trust her husband. The extent of distrust creeping into the family presents a danger that people can perform selfish acts at the expense of their family members and relatives. An example of a family trust problem occurs when Bailey trusts his mother and accepts to drive on a rough road leading to an accident and eventually to killing by Misfit. At the scene surrounding their killing, the Grandmother is keen to rescue her life alone though she does not make it. Therefore, the author presents humans as selfish beings who are keen on pursuing their interests.

Characters in the short story

The characters in the short story appear to have different representation with their differences revolving around their morals. The main characters in the literary work, Misfit and grandmother, for example, live through moral codes that affect their perceptions, actions, and decisions. Misfit lives by the moral code of pursuing evil deeds on people such as killing though he attributes it to the charges he had on wrong actions he does not remember doing (O’Connor 43). On the other hand, grandmother has codes that prove flimsy and full of inconsistencies. She has a lot of pretenses to make people ‘good’ and have much knowledge of the savior Jesus Christ. She, however, deceives her family in many instances as she pursues personal interests and eventually leads them to the extreme turmoil. Although she pretends to have professed love for Christianity loyalty, at the time of need she is unable to pray and even starts questioning about the divinity and power of Jesus.

Other minor characters like Bailey and Mother seem loyal and have respect for their mother although some of her behaviors upset them. Bailey who heads the family is keen to obey his only parent and even heeds to her call to visit an old plantation. Through the same cause of loving his parent, he tries to calm her not to confront the three criminals, but that goes in vain. The kids, John Wesley and June star represent the young generation who have a different touch of the world and concerned with their pleasures rather than minding on other people. While in the journey, they are involved with reading comic journals, and they desire to visit interesting sites. John agrees on the grandmother’s call to visit the old plantation just because he thinks the place would be fascinating and has the spirit of adventure guiding him.

The society in the short story

The community, which the family lives in, is presented as a life-destroying one especially with the inclusion of criminals wanted by the authorities moving around. Due to the selfish attribute encroaching in the society, people and specific characters in the short story find it hard to live in it. The restaurant operators for example loose trust to people after two staggers vanish even after giving them services on credit (O’Connor 44). Although grandmother curses the grandchildren for their opinion that they hate Georgia, the environment is not suitable for them since only lousy news rules the place (O’Connor 3). However, the characters are not in any case worried about changing the society and those who show concern like grandmother have a lot of pretense and lack of consistency making them victims of the society cruelty

Forces governing characters’ choices

As discusses earlier, the main characters have their moral codes controlling their life choices. For instance, both know about Jesus and have many questions about Him as a savior of the world. Due to their doubt about His divinity and salvation power, the grandmother is unable to pray when she faces death threats and when in pain to see her family die. On the other hand, Misfit chooses to be a killer merely because he was falsely accused of his first charge. He has the wrong representation of Christ and doubts a lot about this Christian savior. Other characters like Bailey and his wife have decisions dictated partly by their parent whom they respect due to her age. However, their much trust to the grandmother despite the warning by Mr. Red and his wife that they currently do not recognize any person costs them and leads to the death of the whole family.

The Moral Center in the Work

The short story lacks a moral center, as Flannery O’Connor does not convincingly present one of the characters as the moral center in the quick fiction work. As a reader, one expected the grandmother who is elderly and planned to give thoughtful pieces of advice equal to her age to assume the role of moral center. However, the character eventually comes out to be the shakiest and full of deception leading to the death of the family members. Her pretense to the family that they are moving in the right direction even after she remembers that the place she thought of was in a different location reveals of her irresponsibility and lack of care. She tries to fix good characters to everyone despite their wrong actions, as she looks for favors hence unsuitable to act as the moral center for the other characters.

Conflicts in the Story

Flannery O’Connor presents moral conflicts between the main characters, a battle which emanates from their different perception of spiritual issues. Grandmother through her pretense life holds that she cannot head to Georgia where she reads a Misfit announced to be leading to that direction. However, she deceives her family to move to remote areas where they are more likely to meet the Misfit and eventually reaches the criminal. Misfit, whose moral code guides his action to kill people conflicts with the grandmother who is using the same believes in Jesus, confronts the criminal. While the center of the conflict is how the moral code which influences their decisions, there has a spiritual clash and the author presents it in the aspect of grace which the grandmother receives before she dies.


Flannery O’Connor presents persuasive arguments in support of his assertion that the contemporary society has influenced how the new generation conducts itself. Morals have eroded, with people developing an egocentric culture that locks them from the acceptable norms. It is incredible that even the characters in the society are wired in a manner that their morals demonstrate the real-life situation. Such an approach makes O’Connor an impeccable. It is incredible how the author creates conflict between the characters causing them question each other’s spiritual identity. Apparently, when morals deteriorate, people tend to ask everything in their surroundings.


Work cited

O’Connor, Flannery. A good man is hard to find: And other stories. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1977.

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