Knowing Flannery O’Connor’s religious conviction, one cannot overlook this underlying tone in both of her regarded stories “A Good Man is hard to Find” and “Good Country People”. It is often said of those who stand outside of religious conviction that faith seems to come in handy to people only when it is valuable to get them out of a predicament, of which they have likely placed themselves through insensitive behavior and decisions. In such a desperate attempt to appeal to faith, one only finds emptiness and a fate that leaves them hopeless or even dead. O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People” illustrate that the inability to see the flaws in one’s self lead to substantial consequences, where an appeal to faith is by then too late.
In “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, the grandmother is far from an exemplary matriarch, seeming to find room for selfishness in every word and action. From the first sentence, “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida”, the reader sees that it is the grandmother who places her wishes above that of her family and anyone else. Her closest attempt at genuine concern for those other than herself is as she tells Bailey of the Misfit, which serves to subtly indicate the doom to come for the family. However, even in warning her son about the news story, she uses it to inject doubt into him, knowing that she could use it to persuade him to take them to Tennessee instead, and commenting that if she were to place her family in harm’s way she “couldn’t answer to [her] consciousness if [she] did” (9). Bailey unfortunately does not heed such warning, and the grandmother’s selfishness continues; knowing that Bailey did not want to bring the cat, Pitty Sing, on the trip, she hides it underneath her black valise, a symbol that also appears in “Good Country People”. By bringing the cat on the trip, the grandmother is unknowingly sealing the fate of her entire family.
The grandmother’s bigotry is also on display as the family rides past a black youth standing near his modest home. Her reaction to seeing him is like walking past an adorable dog; “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” (12). When her granddaughter June Starr comments on the boy’s lack of clothing, the grandmother explains that “little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do” (12). As the grandmother emits racism through her comments, she is also inserting such notion into her grandchildren’s minds. Nor Bailey or his wife says anything, so it can be suggested that they are used to such comments and may hold the same views as well. The grandmother does not see a reason to be empathetic; the boy waves and she does return the gesture. Instead she romanticizes the boy’s plight as a missed opportunity, suggesting that “If [she] could paint, [she’d] paint that picture” (12).
Not only is the grandmother intolerant, but she is also quite vain, with an entire paragraph illustrating her choice of clothing for the road trip. Most people...