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

Flannery O’Connor addressed many moral issues in her writing career, and she always knew how to wrap meaningful themes into a bizarre narrative. This essay will focus on the analysis of the main character, as well as the key elements of the plot. The main idea of this essay is to help the reader better understand the story.


“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is one of the most amazing yet disturbing stories by American writer Flannery O’Connor. This short story was featured in her first collection of short stories that was published back in 1955 (Kinney 1). The story revolves around a family vacation that ends terribly. A family from Atlanta decides to visit Florida and encounters an escaped convict called The Misfit. The Misfit then murders all members of the family and steals everything they own, including their clothes and their cat. The story is narrated from the grandmother’s perspective.

O’Connor often addressed moral topics in her books, and this story is no exception. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” addresses such topics as individualism and selfishness. The whole story illustrates how the grandmother’s willingness to achieve her selfish goals eventually kills her entire family and even herself. The story, however, not only shows the consequences of selfishness and its connection to individualism but also the way these concepts affect larger communities, as this theme is illustrated by the events that happen between the family and The Misfit.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Summary

This is a tragic story about a family that decides to take a trip to Florida. At first, these people look like a typical country family, but then the author starts to illustrate all the bad things that are going on behind a typical facade. The older children are very ignorant, and the mother has sacrificed her entire life to take care of the children. She doesn’t live a fulfilled life, and her husband is also unhappy because he’s annoyed by the children. The main character in this family, however, is the grandmother who only pursues her selfish goals and doesn’t pay attention to her family.

The family goes on vacation despite the headlines about The Misfit, an escaped prisoner. The grandmother remembers an old house from her past so she persuades her family to go off the road and visit that house. However, she isn’t sure which way they should go so she quickly loses control and fails to hold her cat, who jumps on her son’s shoulder and causes a car accident.

Although everyone survives the accident, then the family encounters an even bigger problem. They see another car on the road, and three men get out of that car. The grandmother recognizes The Misfit. She tries to save her life so she wants to convince The Misfit that he’s a new man now. The grandmother talks about Jesus and asks The Misfit to pray but she fails to convince him that he’s a good man. Her efforts are useless, and The Misfit commands to kill the family. He kills the grandmother himself. In the end, she and her entire family die because of her decisions.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Grandmother Analysis

The grandmother is the main character of this story, and she is only defined by her role in the family, while other characters have their names. Even though she doesn’t have a name, we still can learn a lot about her preferences and character traits. She likes to look good and she is obsessed with her status as a lady. The cloth that she wears at her neckline is symbolic because when grandmother mentions it, she says that if she gets into an accident and people find her body, they will see that she was a lady (O’Connor 2).

The grandmother manipulates her family and always gets away with it. All her behavior and everything she stands for revolves around her ego, and nothing can stop her selfishness. Her selfishness manifests itself even in tiny details of her relationships with others. For instance, Bailey, her son, explicitly forbids her to take her cat with them to the hotel, but she lies to him and grabs the cat anyway (O’Connor 1). Later, this cat starts a sequence of events that ultimately lead to the deaths of all members of the family.

The grandmother also insists on visiting a plantation house she’d been to when she was young. Even though she knows that her son doesn’t want to waste their time driving to that house, the more she talks about this house, the more she wants to see it, and her son’s unwillingness to follow her wishes is just an obstacle for her. She is determined to get what she wants and she doesn’t bother to consider her son’s opinion (O’Connor 5). At this point, the grandmother lies once again. She persuades her family that there is a hidden place in the house where they might find the family silver. The grandmother goes further and convinces her family that this house isn’t far from there and that they can get there in just twenty minutes. However, she doesn’t even know how far this house actually is.

An interesting thing about the grandmother’s selfishness and unspeakable individualism is that she eventually dies because of another person who shares the same values and doesn’t care about others — The Misfit. Just like her, The Misfit only needs others to use them as tools, and he only wants to get what he wants, no matter what he has to do for it. For both the grandmother and The Misfit, the community doesn’t have any value (Hooten 198). The Misfit is a lost individual who rejected the community and now constantly shifts roles, moving from one community to another, and switching communities when he doesn’t fit in, over and over again.

The main idea behind O’Connor’s story is that when individualism evolves into selfishness, it can not only split people apart and ruin relationships but also give birth to people like The Misfit. Unlike the grandmother, The Misfit takes selfishness to the next level and not only exploits others in order to get what he wants but also does so in an extremely violent way, without considering any moral or ethical limitations. 


“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a very interesting story to analyze because O’Connor manages to present well-known themes, such as selfishness and relationships between an individual and society, in a unique way by creating a bizarre narrative. Ultimately, this story makes the reader think of what society would look like if all people were self-focused and used others to achieve their own goals.


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.

Hooten, Jessica. “Individualism in O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The Explicator 66.4 (2008): 197-198. Web.

O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing: Custom Edition. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2011. 1-12. Print.