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“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner

O’Connor is deservedly considered a master of the short form: her stories have repeatedly received the Prize of O’Henry – the highest literary award in the United States for works of small form. In addition to short stories, Flannery O’Connor also wrote novels. However, she is rightfully considered the master of the short genre, the uniqueness of which was recognized with the establishment of the annual American Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Story.

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A Good Man is Hard to Find is the first collection of stories by the classic of American literature of the 20th century, the second, along with Faulkner, master of the so called “Southern Gothic” (Bruner 32). The collection consists of ten tense situations filled with mystical horror and fraught with explosion, filigree combining realism and absurdity (Donalhoo and Gentry 9-13). What is striking in this collection is the cruelty and realism with which the stories are presented, and even a certain detachment and complete absence of emotional involvement. The reader is faced with a terrifying reality, presented in an indifferent and skeptical shell. With her stories, she inspired the idea that one should never expect pity from anyone because it is not easy to find a good person.

From the first lines of the story A Good Man is Hard to Find, before the readers, a large, and at first glance, a happy family appears. They are going on a road that will turn into a tragedy for them. The main and most tenacious hero is the grandmother, the mother of the head of the Bailey family. This heroine is shown brightly and not always from the best side. Initially, this is a woman who does not want to leave her home and gives children instructions to love their small homeland and their parents. However, in the course of the play, she lies, manipulates relatives, and commits several actions without thinking about the possible consequences. Nevertheless, the author does not tire the reader with excessive moralizing; in her stories any conclusions are left to the readers’ discretion. Perhaps, in this way, the author shows her respect to the readers, considering them capable of independent inferences.

O’Connor was a staunch Catholic, and, as a result, in her works, realism is inextricably fused with weirdness, quirks, grotesque, absurdity, ugliness, perversion, and madness. “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal,” O’Connor said (236). All stories of the collection are set in the American South, in the so-called “biblical” or “solar belt” (Bruner 34). It is a land of stark contrasts where respect and love for tradition and culture is opposed to the darkest ignorance and sanctimonious religiosity. That is why the determining role is often played both by people’s faith in God, and Christian mysticism (anagogy, revelations, insight) – as one of the particulars.

The “evangelical” aspect of some of O’Connor’s characters surely does not mean that the writer is directly preaching. However, she creates situations that subject her characters to a critical test, putting them in the face of a certain higher spiritual reality, which they did not notice in the petty vanity of the everyday world. This moment of truth, as it is often called, lies beyond ordinary perception, but when it comes, a person opens up both his own insignificance and, at the same time, the path to grace and mercy.

Works Cited

Bruner, Michael Mears. A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth. InterVarsity Press, 2017.

Donalhoo, Robert and Marshall Bruce Gentry, editors. Approaches to Teaching the Works of Flannery O’Connor. The Modern Language Association, 2019.

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O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find. The Women’s Press, 1988.

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