"A Good Man is Hard to Find": The Grandmother's Grace
Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" tells the metaphorical tale of a family's fatal confrontation with The Misfit, an escaped serial killer. The incidents and characters throughout the story are aspects of a plot intending to symbolize the spiritual grace passed from one human to another, without regard for kindness or evil. The prominent character in O'Connor's story is the grandmother, who embodies this grace. By including imperfections in the development of the grandmother's character, O'Connor shows the indiscriminatory property of grace she possesses.
The grandmother is the most developed character of the story. She contains several traits that coincide with the stereotypical elderly southern woman. Some of her notions are bizarre and trivial, and ignored by her family, such as the possible attack by The Misfit, a trip to Tennessee instead of Florida, and a fear of feline asphyxiation. John Wesley and June Star have little if any respect for their paternal grandmother. "She has to go everywhere we go," whines June Star (194). The grandmother also dresses immaculately, even for a car trip, simply because in an accident "anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady" (194). She calls attention to pointless details such as mileage, the speed of the car, and scenic road-side attractions. Also typical, the grandmother holds a deep appreciation for incidents which are of no value to others, such as the beauty of the landscape, respect for elders, and courting rituals during her childhood.
The character traits of the grandmother are in no way ideal. Not only is she random and frivolous, but she also demonstrates hypocrisy and manipulation. "Aren't you ashamed?" she asks when June Star insults the owner of Red Sammy's Barbecue (196), but experiences no personal shame at all in stating that "Little niggers in the country don't have things like we do" (195). The grandmother knows there is no secret compartment in the house she wishes to visit, yet she tells the children this compartment exists in order to convince Bailey into stopping. The family's inevitable demise originates when the grandmother sets them on the road to see this mysterious house, which begins the set-up for the spiritually symbolic interpretation of the story.
Upon meeting The Misfit, communication is almost solely between The Misfit and the grandmother. The grandmother shrieks, "You're The Misfit!...I recognized you at once" to which The Misfit replies, "It would have been better for all you of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me" (199). Without regard for her family, the grandmother thinks first of herself, crying, "You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you?"...