Analysis of Characters, Conflict, and Symbolism in “A Good Man Is hard to Find” The story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a fascinating story about a family traveling to Florida for a family vacation. The story’s main characters are the grandmother, the mother and a baby, the father Bailey, and the two children June Star and John Wesley. On this trip the family has a run in with the other characters The Misfit, Bobby Lee, and Hiram who are escaped convicts headed towards Florida. O’Connor uses literary elements such as flashback and characterization to explore what it means to be a good person.
It appears as the only good person in the story is the person the grandmother becomes through her struggle with the Misfit. O’Connor seems to suggest that only through conflict can the “good” be found. In O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” there are three main Characters. The Grandmother seems to be manipulative: “‘…I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did'”(431). The grandmother seemed to be concerned with only what she wanted.
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Instead of just simply stating where she wanted to go she tried to guilt her son into not going to Florida. She also states, “The children have been to Florida before”(431). She was seizing every opportunity to change Bailey’s mind. Whenever something goes against the grandmother’s will, she tries to make things go her way. She is egocentric, and obsessed with the her own ideas. She criticizes others and passes judgment on the world for lack of goodness; believes she’s good because she is a lady. Though she is not confrontational she has her subtle ways to getting what she wants.
Overall there is a lot to be said about the grandmother’s character. The main conflict in O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is religion. The grandmother seems to be very religious: “Finally she found her self saying ‘Jesus. Jesus,’ meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it sounded as if she might be cursing”(441). In the story she never mentioned god before at any time until she had a gun pointed to her. The story seems to imply how the modern man becomes spiritual when faced with vil. The grandmother seems to be unconcerned with the rest of her family: “‘I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! ‘”(441). She thinks she is a “lady” she shouldn’t be shot. The grandmother is self-centered; she did not even beg for the life of anyone in her family but her own. She is always the first to criticize everyone but never looks at herself in a critical manner. The conflicts in this story highlight the character’s nature. The main fiction element in O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is symbolism.
Most of the Symbolism in this story is masked behind a lot of foreshadowing: “They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island”(371). The number of graves foreshadows the death of each family member. Five or six represents the uncertainty of whether at least one member of the family will survive or not. After the accident the family waits for someone to come help them, ironically The Misfit, Bobby Lee, and Hiram pull up in “a big black battered hearse-like automobile”(375).
The Hearse by definition is a vehicle that carries a coffin to a funeral. So, this is another image of death forthcoming, which foreshadows the outcome of the family before The Misfit and his accomplices even get out of the car. In general symbolism is an important element in this short story; many times it foreshadows the death of the family. All said, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is an exceptionally well-written short story with both tension and provoking religious content.
O’Connor brings to the reader through characterization and theme that modern society is drastically changing for the worse. The characters support this in realistic and believable ways. The daily headlines shout out every day the violence and crime that is occurring in our society. The ending does not come as much of a surprise, though, it still is good for a short story. The plot may be a bit illogical when given more thought, but overall this is an exciting and interesting work, which can be enjoyed by non-Christian readers as well.