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A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Critical Analysis

The story A Good Man is Hard to Find written by Flannery O’Connor is considered to be rather tragic through the author’s breakage of traditional “happy ends”. The short story is rich in literary devices and expressive means; O’Connor managed to create a symbolic and imaginative work provoking and stimulating the readers to various considerations. Critical analysis of the story shows that the basic theme expressed by O’Connor was that of foreshadowing highlighted through symbolism and imagination.

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The centralization of Misfit at the very beginning of the story who is the killer of the family tells about the author’s highlighting the concept of death. Grandmother embodied the features and feeling of death foreshadowing throughout the whole story. Not in vain the character does not want to go to Florida and being ignored she strives not to live a family even for a moment; it is like the feeling of tragedy foreshadowing and death coming presented through the grandmother.

“She wouldn’t stay at home for a million buck. She has to go everywhere we go” (O’Connor, 118).

The grandmother’s desire to follow every step of the family is a kind of indication that she will suffer the same end as her family. (DiYanni, 2003) The imaginary of foreshadowing was illustrated by the author through the grandmother’s dress she put on for a trip.

“…a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print” (O’Connor,118).

The author managed to use the symbolization of death. After the death people are to be dressed in the best clothes they have; so, the grandmother was dressed in her favorite outfit as if she felt her end. O’Connor underlines this aspect through the usage of imaginary:

“…in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.” (O’Connor, 119).

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It is the grandmother’s prediction of her death being completely unaware of it. Even though the feeling of death was embodied in the grandmother’s character, her behavior contradicted it completely. (El-Haggan, 1998).

The symbolization and imagination can be observed throughout the whole story. The illustration of graves is considered to be one more foreshadowing symbol of the family’s end.

“…passed by a cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island” (O’Connor, 119).

It should be stressed that the number of graves was provided not accidentally because they fit the number of family members traveling to Florida. “Five or six” is used to denote five family members and a baby. The next symbol depicted by the author is devoted to the plantation.

“Where’s the plantation? – John Wesley asked.
Gone with the Wind – said the grandmother. Ha. Ha. ” (O’Connor, 120).

“Gone with the wind” plantation is considered to be the author’s symbolization of the family state as the death at the end of the story made their souls be “gone with the wind” either. (Bernardo, Karen).

O’Connor seems to prepare the readers for the destiny of the family expected at the end. She tried to insert symbols everywhere, even in the name of the town being the place of a family death. The name of the place is Toombsboro; symbolically this title can be divided into two parts – Tombs and Bury. Involvement of southern accent provides the name “Tombsbury” which is similar to the original title. Further on the author tries to introduce imaginary death foreshadowing through the conversation between Misfit and the grandmother. Misfit’s reply to grandmother’s answer symbolizes a tight grave through the description of the jail cell.

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“Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor” (O’Connor, 130).

O’Connor strived to show that a tight grave for the soul is like a jail cell for the person. The realization of death is symbolized by the author at the end of the story when the grandmother stressed the importance of prayer.

“It was the same case with him (Jesus) as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one” (O’Connor, 131).

This imagination is represented in the role of executioner and jury for the grandmother and the whole family. (El-Haggan, 1998).

So, it is important to stress that the story A Good Man is Hard to Find is the illustration of the concept of death foreshadowing depicted through imaginary and symbolization of characters’ behavior and events in their life. The number of imaginary such as graveyard, dress, and conversations on the topics of death were aimed at preparing the readers for the tragic end suffered by the family. One should note that the author successfully presented the theme of foreshadowing involving the readers and allowing them to predict the destiny of the characters. The story appeared to be appealing and thought-provoking; Flannery O’Connor’s works are great contributions to the world of literature.


Bernardo, Karen. Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man is Hard to Find. Web.

DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. McGraw-Hill Humanities. 2003.

El-Haggan, Rasha. Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man is Hard to Find. University of Maryland Baltimore Country. 1998.

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O’Connor, Flannery. Collected Works. Library of America, 1300 pp. 1988.

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