A Good Man Is Hard to Find

by: Flannery O’Connor

Salvation

Quotes Salvation
There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a pistol report. “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain’t punished at all?”

The Misfit has been explaining that he feels that he has been treated unfairly: He believes that the punishment he has endured outweighs his crime. As he, by proxy, murders two people, his statement seems absurd. However, readers may note that his statements conflate judicial and eternal punishment—damnation. The Misfit believes that “Jesus thown everything off balance.” By saving souls, Jesus grants some people reprieve from all punishment, while The Misfit himself is punished, in part readers later learn because of his inability to believe he will be saved. The Misfit thus feels “the crime don’t matter.” He will be punished while others will not.

Jesus . . . thown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can . . . No pleasure but meanness[.]

The Misfit explains his belief that only Jesus saves. Without Jesus sacrificing himself to save humanity, people would be punished after death. Only thanks to Jesus will they go to heaven, since all humans are sinners and otherwise undeserving of redemption. However, the Misfit has doubts that Jesus can truly save souls, or perhaps he doubts that Jesus will choose to save his soul, so he chooses to enjoy his crime spree for “the few minutes” he has on this earth. He has convinced himself that his eternal damnation will follow no matter how he behaves, so in a way, he feels off the hook for any crime he commits. Fortunately, most people do not use Christian doctrine to justify living outside human laws and mores.

“I wisht I had of been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had of been there I would of known and wouldn’t be like I am now.”

The Misfit explains to the grandmother that he wishes he had seen for himself whether Jesus truly raised the dead. The Misfit feels unable to believe simply by faith as Jesus’s followers are asked to do. Not knowing for sure whether he can be saved drove The Misfit to commit his many sins: As he’s unsure of the existence of the next world, he decides to enjoy this one. The Misfit feels unable to live as an atheist or as a weak but outwardly compliant believer like the grandmother, and his inability to believe either way torments him.