The short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor takes the readers down a path filled with many crossroads all leading to a final destination of judgement. In the short story a family of five and their pet begin a road trip to Florida.
They are forced on to this path, not knowing what is good or evil, right or wrong, faith or disbelief, and guilt or innocence; yet they must choose their path. Throughout the short story the grandmother seems to be one forced to trudge along this path in an attempt to achieve spiritual salvation and be redeemed as a faithful Christian. Before one can understand redemption to the fullest, one must understand a few key words. One of the keywords needed to understand redemption is goodness.
Goodness is having the quality of being good or it can also be defined as “uprightness of heart and life”. In the short story the grandmother’s definition of good is symbolized by the clothing she is wearing. In the quote The grandmother had on 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. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet.
In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady. (O’Connor 138)The grandmother obviously cares more about the way she looks rather than showing any worries told any of her family members. Throughout the story the grandmother clings to this definition of goodness and even uses it as a plead against The Misfit.
The grandmother tries to use this plead to show The Misfit that he is a good man, “‘I just know you’re a good man,’ she said desperately. ‘You’re not a bit common!'” (O’Connor 148). Even when the grandmother uses this plead against The Misfit, it fails because he already knows that he “ain’t a goodman” (O’Connor 148) and turns it around with “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither.” (O’Connor 148). After this talk with The Misfit, the grandmother’s beliefs about goodness begin to fall apart and revealing how foolish her one-dimensional values are.
Another key element to understand is the fight between good vs evil. Good and evil are both abstract concepts that can be perceived from the minds of individuals. Good brings pleasure to individuals while on the other hand evil brings misery to individuals. An example of good vs evil is when The Misfit says, “No pleasure but meanness,” (O’Connor 152). He is intentionally bringing misery to individuals for his own pleasure, while the grandmother is trying to reason with him to change his ways from evil to good.
Throughout the short story it appears that the grandmother begins to have redeeming moments that help her achieve spiritual salvation. In the quote “She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, “Jesus. Jesus,” meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.” (O’Connor 151) the grandmother feels like she is in purgatory by repeatedly calling to Jesus, she is dispelling he sins and being her journey to redemption. O’Connor shows us that each character retains their flaws even in the face of death showing us that sinners remain even after death.
Towards the end of the short story the grandmother appears to have a moment of grace. One critic analyzes and points out that:By acknowledging that both she and The Misfit are sinful and in need of God’s grace, her old desires to appear better than others are eradicated. O’Connor shows the reader that the Grandmother has been changed, dying in a state of grace, “half laying in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky” (688).O’Connor proves that by having real faith in Jesus Christ one can achieve spiritual salvation and even become a “good man”. The grandmother’s false faith was broken down by The Misfits resentment told Jesus Christ because he feels that he was wrongfully accused of a crime he did not do while Jesus did not do any crimes because they did not have any papers to link him to a crime. After the grandmother’s faith was broken she later murmurs to herself saying that “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,” proving that she never had faith in Jesus.
In the quote “‘You’re one of my own children!’ She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.” (O’Connor 152) The grandmother begins to show unconditional love toward The Misfit and showing that she is truly unselfish and a complete opposite of what she previously was. O’Connor shows us that redemption can be achieved after becoming a true “good man”. After The Misfit shoots the grandmother, The Misfit says “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” (O’Connor 153) and in that moment The Misfit beings to reflects on what happened and realizes that in the final moments of her life she was able to redeem herself.
Only under the pressure of death was she able to achieve spiritual salvation and do a 180 to change her life around for the better. At the end of the short story the grandmother does appear to find and achieve redemption and become a faithful Christian. If one was to live the rest of there lives like the grandmother at the end of the short story, then they would be able to became “good men”.