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A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Flannery O’Connor

Contents

Moral Codes

In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” the grandmother and Misfit live by moral codes that affect their decisions, actions, and perceptions. A moral code is a set of beliefs and behaviors that people abide by to live what they consider to be a reasonable, fulfilling lives. The term moral doesn’t necessarily mean “good”; it’s simply a code of conduct, while the righteousness of a person’s morals is entirely subjective. Although at first glance the Misfit’s code seems to be misguided, it is actually the grandmother’s code that proves to be flimsy and inconsistent. The grandmother has built her moral code on the characteristics that she believes make people “good.” She places great stock in being a lady, for example, which emphasizes appearance over substance. At the same time, she repeatedly deceives her family and lacks even a rudimentary awareness of the world around her. Despite her professed love for Christian piety, she herself is unable to pray when she finds herself in a crisis and even begins to question the power and divinity of Jesus.

The Misfit, however, adheres to a moral code that remains consistent and strong. From his experiences as a convicted criminal, he believes that the punishment is always disproportionate to the crime and that the crime, in the end, doesn’t even really matter. He also harbors a genuine bafflement about religion. Whereas the grandmother accepts faith unquestioningly and weakly, the Misfit challenges religious beliefs and thinks deeply about how he should follow them or not follow them. He has chosen to live under the assumption that religion is pointless and adheres to his own kind of religion: “No pleasure but meanness.” His moral code is violent and never wavers, and in the end, his is the one that triumphs.

Cabbage comment

by lauraluluk, July 03, 2017

I just wanted to point out that on here it says the grandmother compares the children's mother to a cabbage, when in reality it is the narrator, which is in third person. The exact quote is "Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children's mother, young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green headkerchief that had two points on the top like a rabbit's ears." It is not the grandmother speaking or comparing anything to a cabbage.

correction to my last comment

by lauraluluk, July 03, 2017

*a young woman in slacks

Engaging story.

by MariaDPettiford, July 25, 2017

"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is a short story written by Flannery O'Connor in 1953. The story appears in the collection of short stories of the same name. The interpretive work of scholars often focuses on the controversial final scene. If you like short stories and Southern Gothic, this book is for you.

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