“A Good Man is Hard to Find” might just be a closer look at an individual human’s behavior, the moral codes they live by, tendencies and what is really taken into account as being genuinely good. Although it might seem like “The Misfit” might have been the evil person here, and the entire reference to the title of the short story, we can’t deny a closer look at the rest of the characters and their own “evil” ways; the manipulative and arrogant grandmother, June Star, the grandmother’s granddaughter and a nasty spoiled brat, John Wesley, June’s 8 year old brother, who is also spoiled and almost as nasty as June, Bailey, the grandmother’s only son and father of the children who does not discipline his children or have any control of his household, and lastly the mother and the baby, who don’t play much of a role in the story, other than to keep each other preoccupied with one another.
The main concentration in the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the discussion between “The Misfit” and the grandmother which alludes strongly to what the she considers genuine solid faith, her twisted view about what makes a good person and how it is finally revealed through the character’s behavior and traits that even in this short story a good person is still yet to be found. The story starts off at what seems like a nice tranquil setting, yet it then evolves into that of a very negative characteristic in each the characters and their daily life. It is sent in the Southern region of the US. The description of the African American child and his clothing reveal the type of life they lived at that time. The run down restaurant they stopped to have lunch where whiny Red Sammy, the owner of the BBQ restaurant, was at was one example.
Then we have June Star, Baylie’s daughter and the grandmother’s granddaughter, who is nasty to everyone; her feelings of where she lives sums it up when she says, about the place she lives in, “No, I certainly wouldn’t, I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!”(O’Connor, pg. 546). John Wesley, June Star’s 8 year old brother and the grandmother’s grandson, too has the same type of temperament as his sister June and describes where he lives when he says: “Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much” and “Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground, and Georgia is a lousy state too” (O’Connor, pg. 545). The setting itself gives off a gloomy negative type of surrounding to the initial environment this family lives in. As Bandy said in his critical essay of “One of My Babies” “[This story’s] message is profoundly pessimistic and in fact subversive to the doctrines of grace and charity, despite heroic efforts to disguise that fact. This vexing little masterpiece cannot be saved from itself. It has a will of its own and a moral of its own”. Now we can see that these characters are ungrateful of where they live and their life in general and would much rather be anywhere else but where they are.
The first biblical illusion comes when the family stops at a town called Timothy (O’Connor, pg. 546), as in reference to the book of Timothy in the bible. This brings us to the biblical allusions about faith and morals and what goodness is in comparison to the Bible book of Timothy and makes us question who the ‘good’ characters may actually be. Was the grandmother’s family actually the ‘evil’ ones and the story referred to when it was titled “A Good Man is Hard to Find”? The word man in this title could be referring to humanity in general not just one person. If that is the case then we can allude to the book of Timothy in the bible to portray what it states about what evil would be like in the last days when it says “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy”(The New American Standard Bible, 2 Timothy 3:1-2).
The Misfit as well makes allusions to being like Jesus, who never committed a crime and yet was punished, when he says “”It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course,” he said, “they never shown me my papers” (O’Connor, pg. 553). Although he does mention Jesus it seems as if he doesn’t really know if to believe in Him or not. We can see this when The Misfit says “Jesus was the only one that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. If He did what He said, then there’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left…”. We can conclude that The Misfit is unsure whether Jesus really exists, or if He really did the things they said he did yet he compares himself to him. There is disorder and insecurity in The Misfits life, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Human and relationship disorder is the main focus from the beginning of the story. For example, in the Bible, the book of Timothy says the following about the first description of men in “the last days”: they will be lovers of self and money”, in other words, they will be selfish and put great importance in the value of money. We can see that the grandmother only thought about the grandmother did not think about what was best for the family, but more about what she wanted to do when she did not obey her son’s rules to not take the cat and caused the entire turn of the story when she deceived the family and was not honest about having them drive off the road to the wrong location, among other things.
The children, June and John are clearly spoiled brats that disobey their parents and are ungrateful and show no respect to anyone. Through June Star’s comments and insults referring how much value she put in money when she speaks of her grandmother not staying behind for a “million bucks” or June not willing to move into a “broken down place” for a million bucks”(O’Connor, pg. 544, 546). The grandmother too talks about money like it were a source of happiness and much value and this is clearly seen when she, offers money to the Misfit so that he does not harm her and also when she tells of the story of Edgar Atkins Teagarden and his many watermelons.
Then there is the arrogance and boastful attitude which pretty much runs through the grandmother and June Star. Their individual feeling of entitlement makes for a nasty selfish behavior. The grandmother keeps repeating that she is a “lady” and wants to represent this by her way of dressing in case they are in a car accident and they find her dead body she can be seen as a lady by her dress. Her own personal misguided moral code is portrayed her with her selfish concern only and not the possibility of anyone else being hurt if they are in a car accident. “While her son Bailey chooses an alarmingly loud, parrot-patterned shirt for the family outing, and while her declassee daughter-in-law remains in slacks for the duration of the trip, the grandmother wears an elaborately cuffed and collared dress, so that “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (Owens, The Function of Signature in ‘A Good Is Hard to Find’). The clothes make the woman: to the grandmother, sign and signified seem one and the same.
Let’s take a look at as well, June Star wanted to tap dance so that she can get attention and once obtained and her reply to an invitation to “stay and be [her] little girl” is answered with a rude “No I certainly wouldn’t”(O’Connor, pg. 546). Let’s not forget Bailey, the grandmother’s son. He is portrayed as a father that is not in control. He tries to seem like he was in control but we see his decisions pushed aside. At the end, when his mother recognized the Misfit and lets them know of such, Bailey blurts out something very nasty to his mother. He says he will handle things, but just kneels there and does nothing at all for his family. In the time of need he failed his wife, his children and mother and was not going to attempt to do anything to help them, which showed selfishness and an unloving characteristic.
Now, although there is no good in any man in this story thus far, other than the mother and the baby that did not have much to play in this story, we do see there is a turning point at the end. A point where there is a glimpse of grace. Grace in terms of the Christian Theology is God’s unmerited favor, which is important for man’s salvation, as it constitutes that you have been made perfect in the eyes of God. Could this be the moment when the grandmother and the Misfit both genuinely thought about something else other than themselves and their ill fate? For the Misfit he dwelled on self-pity, confusion, loneliness and negative sense of being. For the grandmother it was her own selfish and manipulative ways to get what she wanted. “So it is with the grandmother who, a moment before her own death, finally acts according to the religion she has merely believed all her life.
Mere belief is not enough: one must implement and embody belief in acts of love, like the touch, which has a dramatic effect on The Misfit. But sometimes a transformation […] requires a powerful stimulus,” (Fike, “The Timothy Allusion in ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’; O’Connor, 554). The Misfit might have only been exercising his own justice according to him. He would have clearly seen the grandmother’s wavering faith and the lack of discipline, love and respect of the children and the carelessness of the parents to instill discipline to the children. At the end, after The Misfit shoots the grandmother, he says to Bobby Lee, one of Misfit’s accomplices who apparently feels killing people is “some fun”, “She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life”(O’Connor, pg. 554). This quote is showing The Misfit’s understanding to what the grandmother had experienced right before he shot and killed her. He was possibly referring to her last and best attempt to preach to him and reference Jesus when she says “Why you’re one of my babies.
You’re one of my own children!” (O’Connor, pg. 554), but that it only happened because she felt she was very close to death, since she was the only left alive by then, and anyone could clearly see she was next. The Misfit was referring to that if the grandmother had been held at gunpoint all her life, she might have lived a more righteous life. This takes us back to what The Misfit had alluded to earlier in the story when he said “if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now” (O’Connor, pg. 135). He believed that if he had actually seen Jesus do the things they said he did then maybe he could have been a true believer and his life could have been completely different. We can conclude The Misfit realized that he did not live his life appropriately.
Some may argue that they would “have trouble accepting the well-worn reading of The Misfit as an instrument of Catholic grace (Gresham. “Things Darkly Buried: In Praise of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find””). Nonetheless you cannot deny that after taking a closer look at the story and the characteristics, traits, and behaviors of each character we can clearly see that truly “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. It would not be fair to say that the Misfit is the only bad person in this story because of what he was told he has done compared to the type of person the grandmother and her family have been all their lives. The moral codes they might live by allow for their selfish, arrogant, disobedient, unloving and self-praising ways and that clearly does not do not make them any better of a person.
Matthew Fike. “The Timothy Allusion in ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’”.
Literature Resource Center. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 61. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. July 17, 2015 Stephen Gresham. “Things Darkly Buried: In Praise of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find””. Literature Resource Center. Shenandoah. 60.1-2 (Spring-Fall 2010) p17. July 17, 2015. Stephen C. Bandy. “’One Of My Babies’: The Misfit and the Grandmother.” Literature Resource Center. Studies in Short Fiction. 33.1 (Winter 1996): p107-118. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 61. Detroit: Gale, 2003. July 17, 2015 Michelle Owens. “The Function of Signature in ‘A Good Is Hard to Find’”. Literature Resource Center. Studies in Short Fiction. 33.1 (Winter 1996): p101. July 17, 2015