A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by: Flannery O’Connor

Nostalgia

Quotes Nostalgia
“In my time,” said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture now?”

The grandmother criticizes her grandson’s rude behavior and thinks back to the politer days of her youth. She then immediately, unconsciously, reflects the downside of what she thinks of as a better time when she points out a young black child using a derogatory term and objectifies him, reducing him to nothing more than a picturesque view. The grandmother’s statement as a whole serves to contrast, ironically, how she fondly remembers the past with the reality of what life was like in the South, especially concerning the oppression of its black citizens.

The children’s mother put a dime in the machine and played “The Tennessee Waltz,” and the grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance . . . The grandmother’s brown eyes were very bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing in her chair.

The grandmother loves “The Tennessee Waltz” so much that she tries to get her son to dance to the song with her in the barbecue restaurant, but he refuses. As a native of east Tennessee, the grandmother apparently feels a personal connection to the song. She seems to be entranced by the music. Readers know the grandmother possesses “a naturally sunny disposition,” and yet the lyrics to “The Tennessee Waltz” are very sad, indicating that the grandmother may simply ignore the song’s meaning. As she demonstrates again later in the story, the grandmother prefers to ignore unpleasant realities.

He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was exactly right.

The grandmother has found a fellow nostalgist in Red Sammy, the barbecue restaurant owner. As this passage demonstrates, they both enjoy discussing how the past was better than the present, complaining about the present at least as much as reminiscing about the past. Her complaint about Europe reflects the United States’ huge financial support there after World War II. Yet despite the expense, the United States remained extremely prosperous, especially compared to the rest of the world, so the grandmother’s complaint seems excessive and illogical. Sammy’s response implies that he completely agrees with the grandmother’s viewpoint, but he may simply be flattering a customer.

Outside of Toomsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it[.]

The narrator explains how the grandmother suddenly remembers a plantation and becomes overcome by an urge to visit the location, so much so that she lies about the site to make the place more appealing to her grandchildren. Her nostalgia for the old South seems misplaced to the reader, and in this case literally: At first, she remembers the plantation as being in Georgia but later recalls the location to be Tennessee. Given that she grew up in Tennessee, this fact should have occurred to her immediately, but in her frequent habit of reminiscing, she often seems to be unclear on both where and when she is living.