Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, is an intriguing story filled with the use of many instances of symbolism ranging from landmarks to a character’s actions which can be seen as having a symbolic value. O’Connor includes a multitude of symbols which are subtle but important enough to provide inferences to the meaning of the story and even her own personal beliefs. She provides the reader with a sense of the character’s personalities throughout the story through the use of the dialogue and the actions of the characters. The author makes use of a style known as Southern Gothic, which she herself helped popularize (Lyle).This approach to writing provides a fulfilling experience and generally leaves the reader with a greater understanding of the story and its characters. The grandmother within the story is a key bit of evidence in providing symbols.
Immediately, in the introduction of the story, the reader learns about the personality of each character. The grandmother’s selfish nature is revealed as soon as she comes into the story. She is trying to convince Bailey, her son, to vacation in Tennessee and not Florida as his family had already planned. The grandmother, unable to sway the family, has no choice but to travel to Florida. As the family is getting ready to depart to Florida, the grandmother appears in the car in full dress attire: too formal for just a simple road trip. Her choice of clothes which consists of a floral hat, lacey cuffs and collar are a symbol of her vanity. In relation to the description of the
grandmother’s attire, O’Connor writes, “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.”(O’Connor 135). This description of the grandmother provides insight as to how all she cares about is her lady-like appearance, she is not afraid of death, but is afraid of not being considered ladylike if her body is found on the side of the road. This provides a deeper sense of the grandmother’s vanity and her obsession in looking good. Her vanity is a recurring symbol featured throughout the story.
Along with the grandmother’s vanity, another ugly trait of hers is greed. While the family is driving to Florida, the grandmother tells the children a humorous story about a man she met and fell in love with named Edgar Atkins Teagarden. At the end of her story, the grandmother tells the kids, “She would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and […] a very wealthy man” (O’Connor 137). The grandmother’s greed is evident through her last remark of Mr. Teagarden being wealthy. She not only loved him for his personality but also for his money.
A relevant symbol within the story is John Wesley’s name. His name is identical to the man who was mainly known for the establishment of the Methodist church (Telford). Most likely, O’Connor’s inspiration for this character’s name was this religious figure as she herself was...