An Analysis of the Conflict and Point-of-View in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”





An Analysis of the Conflict and Point-of-View in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a complex story that presents a moral puzzle on the reader. The book illustrates good and evil, righteous and wrong as two sides of the same coin. O’Connor’s literary works are heavily influenced by her Catholic Faith and hence affects her views on moral values, grace, and redemption. In this story, Bailey’s family is set on travelling to Florida for the vacation but the grandmother is intent on travelling to Tennessee to visit her connections. She tries to convince her only son Bailey to travel to Tennessee by citing that the family has been to Florida before and also tries to scare them about Misfit, an escaped convict, from an article in the newspaper. The Misfit is implied to be dangerous and is also said to be heading towards Florida. The Grandmother hopes that this will dissuade the family from travelling to Florida but her attempts are unfruitful. The next morning, the family starts their journey to Florida and later stop at a restaurant named the Tower whose owner, Red Sammy, and the grandmother, complain about the state of humanity. After travelling some more, the grandmother narrates to the children about a plantation she had once visited and lies about its details to intrigue the children. The children demand to see it, and while on the dirt road, the cat leaps from its basket onto Bailey’s neck and causes an accident. As they wait for assistance, they are joined by the Misfit and his crew who kill the entire family after the grandmother identifies him and talks about Jesus. By using a third person narrator who pays more attention to the grandmother’s position on events, O’Connor is able to show the main conflict in the story, that is, the hypocrisy in the grandmother who realizes her state of sinfulness upon meeting the Misfit.

O’Connor uses the third person point of view with limited omniscient as the narrator. Thus, the plot is not narrated by any of the characters in the story, but by an outside observer. However, the narrator centers the events of the story primarily on the grandmother. From the start of the story the grandmother’s views are primarily stated as in the statement, “The grandmother did not want to go to Florida” (O’Connor, 375). O’Connor uses the grandmother’s views because she mainly drives the plot. First, she introduces the Misfit to the story and insists that the Misfit is one of the reasons she does not want to go to Florida. Moreover, the Grandmother drives the plot by sneaking her cat, Pitty Sing, into the car and the cat leads to the accident that allows them to meet the Misfit and ultimately, their deaths. However, O’Connor is not totally privy to Grandmother’s thoughts and does not give the grandmother any preferences. For instance, the grandmother is not given any name to avoid the reader from closely identifying with her as an individual. This point of view and the author’s distance allow the reader to judge the characters by purely their actions.

The Conflict in the story is the internal conflict within the protagonist, the grandmother, who has always regarded herself as pious and ‘good’. Upon the violent encounter with the antagonist, the Misfit, the grandmother realizes her sinful nature. Her “head [clears] for an instant and she [murmurs] ‘why, you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!’” (O’Connor, 385). From her encounter with Red Sammy, the owner of Red Tower restaurant, the grandmother seems to imply that there are few men out there, well, she and Red Sammy are definitely good. Red Sammy even agrees with her and states, “A good man is hard to find” (O’Connor, 379). The use of a third person point of view that focuses on the grandmother assists the reader to clearly discern the internal conflict the grandmother experiences between good and evil.

In conclusion, O’Connor explores the theme of good versus and evil and how the complexities of these categories. The Misfit is a complex character, an unlikely source of moral guidance, but he is seen to display more profound conviction than other characters. The Misfit is contrasted to the grandmother who thinks that she is morally superior to other people. The Misfit explains that he has examined the meaning of life and his role in life.

Works Cited

BIBLIOGRAPHY O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition: An Introduction to Literature. 10th. New York: Pearson, 2013. 375-385. Print.