DiggingDeeper: A Good Man is Hard to Find”A Good Man is Hard to Find” talksabout the story of a family that is going on a vacation trip to Florida which causesthem to meet up with an escaped murderer that goes by name of The Misfit.
Thefamily members are your normal, basic family that has kids and strung out mother;a distant father and the interfering grandmother that wants her way most of thetime. They encounter the Misfit and his crew after their tragic car accidentwhich was caused by the grandmother. She waves a random car down which shelater on recognizes that one of them was the escaped criminal called the Misfit. Despite the newspaper articledescription of the Misfit’s personality, he threatened their lives friendlierthan expected and did it pretty much oblivious from the family until it wasdown to the women and the grandmother. There are two different crisesinvolved in the story. One with survival and the other dealing with religionbeliefs. The grandmother pleads with the criminal to keep them alive and changefor the better.
She tells him that she knows he is a good man at heart, “I canjust look at you and tell” (149). Talking to the Misfit, this causes thegrandmother to look at the Misfit as a person with feelings rather than a criminalthat he made himself out to be with bad decisions. This causes the confrontation inthe story between the grandmother and the Misfit to revolve around Jesus. Thegrandmother brings up God and how she wants the Misfit to pray to Him, torepent for his sins and ask for forgiveness, hoping this will get him to spareher life.
However, the Misfit has probably thought about Jesus and Christianitymore seriously than she has. This causes him to believe that there is no realright or wrong. “The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were justbehind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. “Do you everpray?” she asked. The Misfit shook his head. All she saw was the black hatwiggle between his shoulder blades. “Nome,” he said,” (150). The talk aboutreligion makes the grandmother’s later suggestions to pray seem superficial.
Nothingin the story has led for us to believe that religion was an important part inthe grandmother’s life since most of her own values deals with being “decent”by society’s standards than religion. While continuing to plead with himby accepting Jesus, he disregards her request and tells her he does not wantany help. The Misfit goes into a speechabout Jesus, “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case withHim as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I hadcommitted one because they had the papers on me,” (151).
Growing up, he was thetype of person who wanted answers to everything, not just believing insomething that others told him to believe. He needed proof of why he should.The Misfit’s yearning to have all the answers caused a very complicatedsituation on his part which eventually takes over his life (Woodiwiss).He begins to get emotional when thegrandmother tells him he is basically one of her own kids. Saying this to the Misfitcauses him to recoil and hide his emotions which leads him shooting her.
Theacceptance from the grandmother was mostly caused by the circumstances that herand her family had found themselves in which creates the climax of “A Good Manis Hard to Find”. In O’Connor’s view, the Misfit’sdoubt made him a likely prophet. For example, Ezekiel was doubting thesignificance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He insisted thatit did not mean that Yahweh had abandoned Israel. Just as Ezekiel did, theMisfit is doubting what people, like the grandmother, considered the evidenceof redemption: good family, good manners, and respect for one’s heritage. “From the author’s insight, he the Misfitlives in a community that does not believe that matter can be a means of grace.If matter cannot be a means of grace, grace cannot act through human beings,such as an old woman like the grandmother.
With this belief, the Misfit couldnot appreciate the grandmother’s “humanness.” As the world being dividedbetween spirit and matter, or grace and nature, according to O’Connor, humanvalues have become divided as well. The Misfit can either follow Jesus or getwhat thrills he can achieve by hurting others,” (Hendricks). If we consider the Misfit in O’Connor’sview of the role of the prophet, we see that he is not a monster, but a victimof a misunderstanding of the relationship of humanity and God. O’Connor calledthe Misfit a “spoiled Prophet” who “could go on to great things.” AlthoughO’Connor did not elaborate on that claim, it is important because she was fascinatedin the role of the prophet to what Karl Martin (the writer of “FlanneryO’Connor’s Prophetic Imagination) calls a “prophetic vision of history”. The Misfitis spoiled in a way for a prophet because he cannot understand the meaning ofgrace and how it really works. He thinks that because of how the grandmotherhad a tendency to be a hypocrite that she could not be a “medium of grace” oreven believes that grace cannot come from humanity in general (Hendricks).
At the end of story, when theMisfit murders the Grandmother, Bobby Lee asks him, “she was a talker, wasn’tshe?” (153). This indicates about how her speaking everything that comes to hermind has brought her more trouble than good. The misfit replies that she wouldhave been a “good woman…if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minuteof her life,” (153). O’Connor comments ina letter to John Hawkes that the Misfit means that she would have a been a goodwoman if there was someone like him to be by her side her whole life correctingeverything she did. With this, he believes he could have been the grandmother’sguardian. If he had been around, he would have warned her to give up views andbeliefs of Christianity and seek a deeper involvement with Christ and religion.(Hendricks).
Bobby Lees considers the murderingof the family enjoyable which leads to that there is no question that Bobby Lee’sidea of pleasure is pure evil. TheMisfit corrects Bobby; “It’s no pleasure in life,” he tells him, basicallysaying the same line from Ezekiel 33:11: “I have no pleasure in the death ofthe wicked”. The Misfit is not killing thefamily out of evil but fulfilling a gruesome duty with no joy in doing so. Heis now, in effect, both prophet and Yahweh.
The people, such as thegrandmother, have failed to respond to the guardian’s warning, so he hadbrought upon himself the act to kill the Grandmother and her family. TheMisfit, however, is insane to even think of himself as one of God’s agent. “O’Connortold Hawkes that she meant the grandmother to be the medium of grace: more thanin the Devil I am interested in the indication of Grace, the moment when youknow that Grace has been offered and accepted—such as the moment when thegrandmother realizes that the Misfit is one of her own children,” (Hawkins). The Misfit can’t believe that gracecan come through humanity at all. As O’Connor portrayed in the letter to JohnHawkes, the Misfit should be able to reference to Jesus but Jesus has beenpresented to him not as a mediator but an existential challenge: “The Misfit knows what the choiceis—either throw away everything and follow Him or enjoy yourself by doing somemeanness to somebody, and in the end, there’s no real pleasure in life, noteven in meanness. But the Misfit can’t throw away everything and follow Himbecause he wasn’t there when Jesus raised the dead. As much as he would like tobelieve Jesus did, the Misfit cannot, so he believes he might as well “domeanness,” (Hendricks).