Questions on “a good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner

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A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner

1. Throughout the story, the grandmother judges people against her idea of “good”. Looking at her comments, explain what traits make up her definition of “good”. Whom does the grandmother consider good people? What are other possible meanings of "good"? Why does she tell The Misfit that he's a good man? Is there any sense in which he is? Be specific.

2. How would you characterize the other members of the family? What is the function of images like the following: the mother's "face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like a rabbit's ears" and the grandmother's "big black valise looked like the head of a hippopotamus"?

3. How does O'Connor foreshadow the encounter with The Misfit?

4. What is the significance of the discussion of Jesus?

5. What is the significance of the grandmother's saying, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children"?

6. What is the significance or point of The Misfit's saying, "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life"?


Is O’Conner, as John Hawkes suggests, "happily on the side of the devil"? Or, on the contrary, does the diabolical Misfit function, paradoxically, as an agent of grace?

Is the story racist? Is the grandmother racist, in her comments on cute little “pickaninnies” and her use of "the ‘N’ word”? Does the narrator endorse the grandmother's attitude? Is O'Connor simply presenting characteristically racist attitudes of not particularly admirable characters?
She states that the subject of her work is "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil" (Mystery and Manners 118). She tries to portray in each story "an action that is totally unexpected, yet totally believable" (118), often an act of violence, violence being "the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially" (113). Through violence she wants to evoke Christian mystery, though she doesn't exclude other approaches to her fiction: she states that she could not have written "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" in any other way but "there are perhaps other ways than my own in which this story could be read" (109).
Flannery considered herself a "Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness." Issues of religious belief are foremost in all her works. They are Georgia stories, of estrangement, epiphany, and she preferred to phrase it, "a moment of grace."

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