A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by: Flannery O’Connor

Goodness

1

“It isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you can trust,” she said, “And I don’t count nobody out of that, not nobody,” she repeated, looking at Red Sammy.

The family stops for a barbecue, and the restaurant/gas station owner, Red Sammy, mentions that he lost money giving some strangers gas on credit. His wife, a more hard-nosed person than Sammy, follows up with this remark, implying with her look that she doesn’t even trust Sammy. She later says that she fully expects The Misfit to appear at their shop—a notion that seems melodramatic here but not at the end of the story. The wife believes in god but not in people; people, she assumes, will be sinful. Her statement foreshadows the action that follows.

2

“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.”

Red Sammy’s statement also serves as the title of the story, perhaps because, while his comment is inspired by talk of The Misfit, nobody else in the story seems good either. Even the children seem bad by conventional standards. As such, the story’s title becomes an ironic understatement. Readers learn that The Misfit is driven, he claims, by his own search for “a good man”—the good man, Jesus. Faith in Jesus eludes the Misfit, and he feels this lack keenly. He blames his inability to truly find Jesus in his heart for his criminal behavior.

3

“Listen,” she said, “you shouldn’t call yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.”

The grandmother tries to flatter The Misfit into altering his planned course of action. She hopes to get The Misfit to change his identity, to stop being The Misfit altogether, since she knows that The Misfit is a murderer. In reality, the grandmother is either deceiving herself or simply lying because The Misfit is not a good man and doesn’t even appear to be one. The grandmother’s use of the phrase “a good man” means nothing unless the phrase appeals to The Misfit’s own sense of self. Unfortunately, The Misfit sees himself clearly, stating, “I ain’t a good man.”

4

“You could be honest too if you’d only try,” said the grandmother. “Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a comfortable life and not have to think about somebody chasing you all the time.”

The grandmother tries to convince The Misfit to change his ways so that he won’t murder her family. She points out that if he were honest and thus not on the run, his life would be better. Such a life might be an improvement, but even if he spares the family, The Misfit must continue to live on the run as an escaped prisoner. Moreover, readers learn that he was initially imprisoned for a crime he does not remember committing: His honesty then did not spare him from persecution, so he believes that changing his behavior won’t free him now either.