A Good Man is Hard to Find





A Good Man is Hard to Find

The story on A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor talks about good versus evil in the society. The story is about a grandmother who has a rather apparent sense of righteousness or goodness and a criminal who clearly embraces evil. The grandmother treats goodness as a function by being decent, having manners considered to be good by the society and coming from a family that is of the right kind. The misfit has no sense of any guilt whatsoever and has a genuine desire to cause destruction, evil and death for his own sake. In the story, A Good Man is Hard to Find symbolism is effectively used to depict the societal motivational view on evil as compared to the accepted goodness.

Towards the onset of the story, the author symbolizes heaven when she depicts that the trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. Chris (Web 1) states that, “the silver-white sunlight is supposed to symbolize to the reader that it is heaven. How you interpret the meaning of the word meanest: either being portrayed as cruel, or being portrayed as average.” The author essentially associates the silver-white sunlight to symbolize purity and any form of good. There is no element of cruelty even with the mention of the meanest. The meanest among the trees only sets them apart to nullify the allusion of perfection.

In the society, with the existence of various extremes, not everything can be classified under the good and evil categories. The author uses the silver-white lining effectively to demonstrate peace and tranquility. It also depicts the symbolic image of heaven as a source of all the goodness that is entrenched within the good people of the society. Such attributes associate with the products of all good tidings in the society as compared to any feedback from evil events. The trees however do not share the same category. The use of the word meanest does not specifically point to the evil aspect of the society. The meanest of the trees happens as natural phenomena not ideally symbolic of any evil representation.

While the family was traveling, they happened to pass a large cotton field, which had five or six graves. It was fenced at the middle almost like an island. Chris (Web 1) states that, “It just so happens that the Bailey family has six members: Bailey, his wife, his mother, and his three children. I feel this is an allusion to the fact that they’re going to die later on.” This is quite coincidental although the figure six shows the equal number of members in the family. Later on in the story, they all die symbolized by the mention of the six graves. The island also is significant as the family is later surrounded by the misfit and his group of accomplice.

While in the car as they traveled, the grandmother narrated to the two children how she would have married Mr. Teagarden since he was a gentleman. Chris (Web 1) states that, “she values money and material comforts over love and relationships. This is also evident in the way that she later proclaims she will give all of her money to Jesus in exchange for salvation.” This statement is quite symbolic of how the grandmother believes in goodness over evil, yet she does not see anything wrong with valuing dignity over the wealth of the gentleman. According to her own eyes and stature, it is right and acceptable since he died a very wealthy man.

The grandmother is symbolically shown to value the material possessions and good mannerisms as compared to the true and honest nature of a person. When she states that Mr. Teagarden died while he was wealthy, it casts a doubt on the essence of the difference between good and evil. The grandmother is seen as a good member of the society who is against any form of evil ways and schemes. She even detests the misfit for his actions of the past. The goodness however is complex since this goodness is according to the judgment of the grandmother towards other members. On her part, she sees a good man as being a gentleman and owning wealth. She further shows how ready she is to part with money in exchange for salvation.

Upon arriving at the tower, the family stopped to have barbecued sandwiches. During the conversation, Red Sam’s wife talks of trust issues with the people of the society. She said that there was not a soul in the world that you could trust, and she stressed the part of nobody. Chris (Web 1) states that, “Strange that Red Sammy’s own wife seems to think he is not trustworthy.” The statement goes along way to symbolize the level of mistrust on how the people of the society see each other. There is too much evil that it leaves no room for trusting anyone. The grandmother affirms the statement when she compares the people of the past times and those at the time of the narrative.

The author uses religious symbolism to show how the grandmother was a devoted believer in religion. When she was left alone with the misfit, she constantly told him to pray at any given opportunity. Alexander (Web 1) states that, “In her speaking, the grandmother often uses references to religion when interacting with her own family and the Misfit. Because the grandmother is adamant about religiosity in her own personal life, she reflects this trait by projecting religion into her solutions to the problems of others.” The level of Christianity by the grandmother is symbolized to show that it offer solutions to all adversities. This is however catastrophic given the fact that the misfit does not entirely believe in any good from religion.

In the context of telling the misfit to constantly pray, the author forgets to indicate the same can be symbolized on the grandmother. The misfit is genuinely aware of his cruelty and sees no harm in hurting others. He acknowledges the existence of Jesus but ignores the pleas by the grandmother. The misfit carries out evil actions with utter confidence. The grandmother is however oblivious her advice and plea on prayer. She was faced with a tough time at the hands of the misfit and could not afford to pray about it. She is depicted as a strong believer in prayer and could not muster the courage and time to pray about the predicament that had caught up with the whole family.

Bailey is symbolized as a martyr on behalf of his family when faced with adversity and death was lurking. When he was apprehended by the misfit, he was squatting in a position of how a runner would be like. He was about to sprint forward but did not necessarily move. Chris (Web 1) says, “Bailey is ready to rush headlong into death’s awaiting arms in order to try to save his family. Perhaps making him the most ‘good’ character in the family, as he is prepared to act as some sort of martyr.” According to this statement, Bailey was ready to confront the misfit in order to salvage his family.

The symbolism of Bailey as a martyr did not materialize as depicted by the author’s tone. Bailey went ahead and tried talking the misfit into avoiding the whole situation all together but this did not seem to deter his efforts on causing evil on the innocent family. In the hindsight, the grandmother had initially warned her son about the misfit and all the evil he had done previously. Symbolism in this context is non-effectual since the characters already know the extent of the capabilities of the misfit. They had the details on his record as told out by the grandmother even before they began the journey. Yet, the author forges on symbolizing the willingness of Bailey to sacrifice himself on behalf of his family.

The story of A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor is a reality-teller of the society that we live in. there are two extremes that judge the nature and behavior of individuals. How a person treats others is classified under good or evil depending on how the society judges the actions and results off it. However, there is a complexity under which the degree of goodness is viewed. In some instances, it favors an individual according to his personal judgment. Through symbolism of the characters and specific objects and activities in the story, the author effectively uses symbolism to show the two different sides between good and evil in the society.




















Works Cited:

“Religious Symbolism in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”” StudyMode.com. 04 April. 2011. Web. 30 May. 2014  <http://www.studymode.com/essays/Religious-Symbolism-In-a-Good-Man-1574329.html>.

“Reading Between the Lines- A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Setonhill.com. 27 January. 2005. web. 30 May. 2014. <http://blogs.setonhill.edu/ChristopherUlicne/coursework007068.html>.

Roberts, Edgar, and Robert Zweig. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Boston: Longman, 2012. Print.

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