Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is one of the bright samples of Southern Gothic literature, which is a subgenre of the Gothic writing style. Supernatural or strange events are very common for this style. It often focuses on unusual characters and the crumbling landscape is used as a background for grotesque or haunting atmosphere of life in the American South. Characters, nature and events in Southern Gothic literature always seem to be normal at first, but later they turn into strange or horrific.
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” brings the reader to a family’s holiday that suddenly ends with a murder. The major characters in the story are the unnamed grandmother and the Misfit. The story begins with the grandmother opposing her son’s idea of visiting Florida, she insisted on going to Tennessee instead. Her request was ignored. O’Connor extensively uses characterization to bring out lack of respect and poor discipline in America’s society. The message in his story can be understood from differences that subsist between the old and young generations. During the preparations, the grandmother decides to put on her best Sunday dress, to make sure she will be easily taken for a lady when she dies. F. O’Connor inserts words and phrases that foreshadow the tragic events that happened later on the dirt road.
Similarly, the writer uses symbolism in the story to show bereavement and faith. He says that the family moves from the good road to follow a dreadful one. The road where they end up getting killed. This symbolizes how people move away from the kingdom of God to go to down the evil paths. The town’s name Toombsboro is another symbol that associates with death.
From an analytical point of view, several issues have been brought into the context. For instance, the selfish and manipulative nature of the unnamed grandmother has been brought out. It is well seen when she tried to explain to the Misfit why he should not kill her. Another sample is the contrast between her way of dressing and that of her daughter-in-law.
In line with this, the discussion between the grandmother and Red Sammy in the restaurant brings out a clear indication that it is hard to find a good man in the world today. They recall the days of their youth with a lot of nostalgia when safety was at its highest degree. The introduction of Misfit character in the story brings out a judgmental society which contributed to the behavior of the Misfit as a murderer. Only in a conversation with the grandmother the Misfit is able to pour out his heart. He confesses that he used to be a gospel musician but then he found himself behind bars. He was convicted for a crime he had no idea about . This shows that even though the Misfit was a murderer, the society he lives in was to be accused in his behavior.
As the story ends an aspect of religion is brought out whereby the grandmother reaches the Misfit and begins to tell him about Jesus . Although it was certainly the way of trying to save her own soul, it was also an act of grace. When she touched the Misfit’s forehead and preached that he was one of God’s children she was definitely on a good pass.
The author ultimately does well to bring to the reader’s attention how the world is changing from being a good to a bad place. Using characterization and symbolism, O’Connor clearly shows the various vices in the society which are making the world a bad place. The author also uses the theme of the story “a good man is hard to find” to show that if people would accept Jesus in their lives then the world could be a good place just like in the past.
To sum it up, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is definitely written in Southern Gothic style. The plot is a metaphor of life: birth and childhood are symbolized by Atlanta, adulthood is pictured by the highway and a dirt road was used to be a symbol of death. F. O’Connor used both dramatic and situational irony in her short story. Every word was carefully chosen to contribute to the general plot of the story.