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A Good Man Is Hard to Find Analysis: Essay Example & Summary

A great writer Flannery O’Connor has always been a central figure in American literature. Just like her colleague Nadine Gordimer, she covered the moral issues in her bizarre stories. Her short story A Good Man is Hard to Find provides a solid ground for literary analysis. Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find analysis will help you to better grasp the story.

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Having appeared in 1955, A Good Man is Hard to Find remains a widely-discussed story up till nowadays. Flannery O’Connor managed to combine the most thoughts-provocative issues of that time in a short piece (Kinney 1). Although society has developed since then, people still deal with the problems mentioned by Flannery O’Connor. A Good Man is Hard to Find analysis will discuss two key themes of the story: selfishness and individualism.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Summary

A Good Man is Hard to Find is a tragic short story about a family. A grandmother, father Bailey, mother, and three kids are going to visit Florida. At first sight, they seem to be good country people. However, there are a lot of pitfalls. Their older children – John Wesley and June Star – are very boorish and ignorant. The mother devotes herself to her kids, not having enough time to live a fulfilled life. The father seems to be annoyed by his children. Finally, the grandmother thinks only about herself, not paying enough attention to the family.

Despite the rumors about the escaped prisoner The Misfit, the family goes on a trip. While on the way to Florida, the grandmom suddenly remembers an old plantation. Many years ago, she was astonished by its incredible beauty. So, she convinces Bailey to go off the road and visit that place. Being unsure if she points the right direction, the grandmother loses her control. As a result, she does not manage to hold her cat. It jumps on Bailey’s shoulder, causing a car accident.

Fortunately, everybody stayed alive. But then, the real troubles start. Trying to deal with the situation, the family hopes that somebody will stop by them and offer help. Suddenly, the car appears on the road. The three men get out of the car, and the grandmom recognizes The Misfit among them. In desperate attempts to save her life, the grandmother is trying to convince the criminal that he is a good man. She asks him to pray to become closer to Jesus. However, her effort is useless. Ultimately, The Misfit commands to kill all the family members and kills the grandmom himself. That is how dramatically the story ends.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Literary Analysis

Selfishness and individualism are the essential themes covered in the story A Good Man is Hard to Find. In the story, the grandmother prioritized her interests rather than the interest of her family. As a result, the tragic ending occurred to everybody. With the example of grandmom, the author shows how the desire to achieve personal needs affects society.


The main character of the story – the grandmother – is an entirely selfish woman. Her selfishness reflects in the way she acts, the way she interacts with her family, even in the way she dresses up.

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The grandmother is always concerned about her appearance. She is obsessed with the idea of being a lady. So, she dresses up in elegant dresses and fancy hats. She hopes that “in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor 2). Thus, she does not spend time with her grandchildren or help her daughter-in-law with household chores. Instead, the grandmother devotes all the time she has on herself, choosing appropriate dresses and hats.

Besides being ignorant, the grandmom is also a manipulative woman. She effectively manipulates her family members to suit her interests. For example, she takes her cat on a trip despite Bailey’s prohibition to do that. She just thinks that her cat would be missing her if she left it alone at home. As a result, the cat becomes a cause of a terrible car crash.

Moreover, the grandmother manipulates her family to see a plantation she saw many years ago. After taking a nap in the car, she suddenly remembers a beautiful place she visited while being young. She wants to recall these memories, so she urges her son to go off the road. The grandmother is sure that Bailey will not be willing to spend much time in an old plantation. Thus, she lies her grandchildren children about a secret panel with plenty of silver in that house. The woman says: “It’s not far from here, I know. It wouldn’t take over twenty minutes” (O’Connor, 5). In reality, she does not know for sure how long it would take to reach that place. However, her sense of self-importance makes her lie to her family. She manipulates her son to achieve the desired result.

Grandmom’s selfish purposes create dangerous circumstances for the family. Being under the pressure of his mother, Bailey follows her directions. As a result, they get into a car accident and meet The Misfit.


In addition to selfishness, the grandmother’s character traits also include individualism. In the story, the individualism of the woman is confronted with the individualism of the Misfit. Both characters achieve their own needs through surrounding people. They take whatever they need and move forward, not taking into consideration the needs of others. As a result of this behavior, the world becomes a place where “community holds no value” (Hooten 198).

Both the grandmom and The Misfit are predisposed to be humane. For example, the woman tries to convince the prisoner about the significance of spiritual values. Thus, she has a clear image of what kindness means. Similarly, The Misfit seems to be a well-behaved person from first sight. For instance, he apologizes for being dressed improperly. Nevertheless, in the inner battle of good and evil, evil wins in both characters.

Therefore, individualism takes the upper hand in the character set of both: the grandmother and the Misfit. While being ignorant of other people, the woman and the criminal destroy society. Their individualistic nature becomes a real threat to the surrounding people.

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The analysis of A Good Man is Hard to Find reveals an intriguing aspect. The grandmother and The Misfit have very similar personalities. They both are ready to lie, manipulate, murder to fulfill their desires.

The given A Good Man is Hard to Find essay covers Flannery O’Connor’s concern. The themes of selfishness and individualism worry the author. This issue is critical and should be dealt with immediately. If people keep being selfish individualists, the world will turn into a group of “self-focused wanderers without a community who use others as means to their own ends” (Hooten 197).


  1. Gresham, Stephen. Things Darkly Buried: In Praise of A Good Man Is Hard to Find. 2010, Shenandoah,1-2: 17-18. Web.
  2. Hooten, Jessica. Individualism in O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. 2008, The Explicator,4: 197-198. Web.
  3. Kinney, Arthur F. A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Overview. 1994, Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press 1-2. Print.
  4. O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. 2011, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing: Custom Edition. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 1-12. Print.


❓ How do you start A Good Man Is Hard to Find analysis essay?

The best way to start an essay on A Good Man Is Hard to Find is to state a clear thesis statement. First, decide on the main points you are going to present. Then, develop a strong thesis, including those ideas. Put everything in words and impress your audience from the very beginning of your essay.

❓ What is the main theme of A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

A Good Man Is Hard to Find cover a lot of crucial issues. However, the central theme is the destructive nature of selfishness and individualism. Flannery O’Connor points out that these traits lead to the establishment of an immoral society.

❓ How would you describe the grandmother in A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

The grandmother is a woman from the Old South. She considers herself an elegant and graceful lady. In fact, she is a selfish, judgmental, and manipulative granny. She gets what she desires by disrespecting the people that surround her.

❓ What is the message in A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

Flannery O’Connor’s message is that human compassion and grace may change even the most ignorant person. It is best seen during the final encounter of the grandmother and The Misfit.

❓ Is the Misfit a good man?

This is a controversial question, and the reader needs to decide himself. On the one hand, The Misfit is a dangerous escaped convict. He doesn’t feel responsible for his actions and doesn’t believe in God. On the other hand, he compares himself to Jesus. The Misfit gets into a deep philosophical conversation with the grandmother.

❓ What literary devices are used in A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

A Good Man Is Hard to Find is full of literary devices. The author uses symbolism, irony, foreshadowing, philosophical thoughts that awaken conversations. These literary devices help the reader to get the moral of the story and experience it better.

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