A Good Man Is Hard to Find
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a short story written by American writer Marry Flannery O’Connor. The simplicity of the language and plot that O’Connor used contrasts strikingly with the complex ideas of morality that are presented in the given story. The following essay will examine the elements of irony and its significance in “Good Man is Hard to Find.” The use of elements of irony in the short story works to underlie the sad morale of the story: the individual’s inability to see personal flaws and wrongdoings.
In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” O’Connor reveals the story of an American family that travels to Florida for the family vacation. On their way, the family gets into a car accident and meets the runaway criminal The Misfit and two of his companions. The story ends with the criminals killing of all members of the family after leading them into the woods one by one. Grandmother is the last one to die after the long and painful conversation with The Misfit about Jesus and morality. She tries to convince him that he is a good man.
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a story that is full of implicit irony. In fact, almost all events and behavior of characters are ironic by nature. First, let us consider the attitude of family towards the main character, the grandmother. In the very beginning of the story, the grandmother creates an impression of a decent old woman. However, the attitude of the family towards her is rather unfriendly. Her son Bailey and his wife never have a normal conversation with the grandmother. In addition, the children respond quite unkind to the grandmother’s idea to visit Tennessee instead of Florida: “‘She wouldn’t stay at home for a million bucks,’ June Star said. ‘Afraid she'd miss something. She has to go everywhere we go’” (O’Connor). These words contain certain amount of child’s disrespect that can be associated with the opinion of the entire family. Such attitude of family members towards the grandmother is rather ironic because, during the whole story, she tries to seem sweet old person who wants to spend time with the family.
Another element of irony that reader can notice is the behavior of the grandmother and her judgments of people. Throughout the entire story, the grandmother is talking about the good people. She tells the story about sweet Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden, who was bringing her watermelons; she also calls Red Sammy a good man because he lets unknown men take gas on credit. Reader can notice that the grandmother’s judgment of a good man is very primitive and shallow. Mr. Teagarden is good because he brings watermelons as presents, and Sammy is a good man only because he has poor judgment and lets strangers take gas on credit. One more ironic element of the grandmother’s personality is that she is very selfish and manipulative. She lies to the grandchildren about the secret place in the old house in order to force the family to visit her favorite place. In fact, the lie of the grandmother is the prime reason of the car accident and, consequently, the deaths of all family members. It is quite ironic that O'Connor chose a character of the Grandmother to possess all these negative attributes, since grandmothers are always associated with wisdom and care.
Apart from the actions of the grandmother, reader can also notice irony in the actions of another character – Red Sammy. The owner of the road café and station does well letting strange people buy gas on credit. This action is indeed good, since he helps men who are in difficult situation. However, ironically, this good action makes people form a poor judgment of Sammy because he immediately regrets his act. Sammy complains that people are not trustworthy anymore. Such words signify that he does not intend to make any good for those men.
The family’s meeting with the criminal The Misfit is also full of sad irony. The chances of meeting the runaway criminal on the road are quite slim. On the other hand, the author foresees the dangerous meeting in the very beginning of the story by stating that “In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor). It is indeed rather ironic that the author mentions the dead body during the description the grandmother’s outfit for the family trip because, at the end of the story, she dies in that nice dress. Another ironic element is that the grandmother claims until the very end that The Misfit is a good man, but, in fact, he is an ordinary criminal. It should be mentioned that The Misfit has stronger moral code than the grandmother does. In addition, he even has the determined philosophy of “life is meanness.”
The use of irony in “Good Man Is Hard to Find” is crucial for underlying the important moral message of the entire story. None of the characters, except the Misfit can see personal flaws and wrongdoings. The grandmother who claims to know who a good man is actually does not have any moral principles. She manipulates the grandchildren, and it leads to the accident and their deaths. Red Sammy, who lets strangers take gas for free, regrets his action. However, he is still called a good man. Only the criminal with twisted philosophy seems to be persistent with his moral principles. No doubt killing people is amoral; thus, he cannot be called a good man. However, he at least is thinking about the philosophical principles and meaning of his life. In my opinion, the greatest irony of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is that, despite the variety of characters that appear in the text, the reader can find no good man in the entire story.
I am a freelance writer. I'm specialized in essay writing on different topics. I like to experiment with different styles and genres. It may be a small high school essay or research. What I like the most about my work is that there is always something new to learn. That's why I usually read a lot. The last articles I read were Analysis of the Film The Pursuit of Happiness and Book Review, Machiavelli, Niccolo., "The Prince"