The grandmother, Red Sammy, and the Misfit’s nostalgia for the past suggests that they all believe that a “good man” was easier to come by long ago and that pursuing goodness in the present day is difficult and even pointless. During the car trip, the grandmother reminisces about an old suitor, Edgar Adkins Teagarden, who brought her a watermelon every weekend. She suspects she should have married him because he was a gentleman—and therefore a “good man” as well—and became wealthy. Red Sammy and the grandmother reminisce about the past, when people could be trusted. Red Sammy says outright that “a good man is hard to find,” considering himself—gullible and foolish—to be one of this dying breed. Even the Misfit remembers things his father said and did as well as the unfairness of his punishment for crimes that he can’t remember committing. According to these characters, the present is rife with ambiguity and unhappiness, and things were much different long ago. In a way, this belief allows them to stop short of deeply exploring their own potential for goodness because they’ve convinced themselves that the world is not conducive to it.

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.