A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by: Flannery O’Connor

Class

1

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 she was a lady.

The narrator explains that the grandmother dressed for the family road trip with appearance, not comfort, in mind. The rest of her family wears casual attire, reflecting a difference in either generation or personality. The grandmother presumably does not really believe she is likely to die in an accident, so she is really dressing to reflect her own sense of self. However, her preoccupation with how she will be perceived when dead shows that she cares more about outward signifiers of class than inner virtue; otherwise, she would care more about how she appeared to god when dead than to passing drivers.

2

June Star didn’t think it was any good. She said she wouldn’t marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out[.]

After the grandmother tells a funny story about one of her former suitors, June Star reveals that she feels unimpressed with the man’s wooing technique of bringing a watermelon once a week. To the grandmother, the gifts didn’t hold as much importance as the man’s status as a wealthy gentleman. She does not say June Star should have married Mr. Teagarden because he was nice. His personality is either unknown or irrelevant. While the grandmother tries to pass on her mores to the younger generation, she at no point defines gentleman or lady. She simply assumes June Star understands their significance.

3

“Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”

The grandmother thinks she will win over The Misfit with flattery. To her, the most important aspect of a person’s identity is his or her class. By saying she believes The Misfit comes from a high class, she hopes to both make him like her and appeal to the supposed virtues of a gentleman, thus bringing out his chivalrous side. Whether the grandmother has any basis for her statement remains unclear and unlikely. The Misfit is wearing glasses but also no shirt and too-tight jeans, an outfit that doesn’t quite reflect the upper class. The Misfit agrees that he does come from excellent parents but then makes clear that this fact is irrelevant.

4

“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”

In desperation, the grandmother appeals to The Misfit in various ways. She once again insists that since he has “good blood” and comes from nice people, he wouldn’t shoot a lady, statements designed to remind him of her own class status. Upon seeing that her appeals on behalf of his class don’t work, she turns to religion and then finally offers him money. Later in the scene, the grandmother only loses her concern for status and appearance in the final moment before she is killed, when she suddenly sees The Misfit as “one of my babies.”