The Flannery O’Connor story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” illustrates a parallel between the Misfit and the grandmother, showing that good and evil are not mutually exclusive in an individual. The grandmother and the Misfit display a flowing, changing state of character, representative of this shift. Flannery O’Connor develops these two characters on the surface as simply being a good person and a bad person. However, there is more to each character than the surface level, as they exhibit traits that wouldn’t ordinarily seem fitting in regards to what would be expected. It is this complexity in human characteristics that O’Connor takes the time to develop and show the audience the depth of humanity.
William Burke defines the bond between the Misfit and the grandmother by observing a “shared moral principle” (99). This moral principle is the belief that they deem themselves a good person, though, for entirely different reasons. As the family begins its trip, despite her initial objections, the grandmother is content with the ride (O’Connor 203). Her agreeable nature portrays her as being a kind old woman and therefore the good person she strives to be. Despite his criminal history, the Misfit is introduced as a considerate motorist, stopping to help the injured family and their damaged vehicle (208). Considering his reputation, had he truly been a man of evil, the family would have been in immediate danger, as opposed to just the point from when the grandmother recognized him. Upon the realization that the Misfit may, in fact, be no different than one of her own children, her subsequent murder reveals the Misfit’s own regrets about his misdeeds (O’Connor 212).
On the other hand, the grandmother and the Misfit both “act in the principles of self-interest” putting themselves before others; therefore, this is in contrast with the actions of a good person (Burke). At Red Sammy’s truck stop, the grandmother converses with Sammy about the lack of good people in the world, blaming the down-turn on others while neglecting her flaws (O’Connor 205). This irony in her character demonstrates the ability an individual has to label themselves, in a vacuum, as good or evil and the effect this can have on those that don’t know that person. In her waning hours, the grandmother, despite the murders of family in the background, attempts to bribe, reason with, and flatter the Misfit in a desperate attempt to save her own life (Evans 6). This same woman had earlier commented on the lack of good people in the world and she has regressed to using whatever means necessary to attempt to preserve her life.
The Misfit acts in self-interest by having the family killed in order to escape the risk of capture after the grandmother identifies him. While this is what is expected of the infamous Misfit, it takes the grandmother exposing his identity to bring it about. Instead of committing the murders initially, as he was notorious for, he had stopped to aide...