Jun 3, 2020 in Analysis

Grace in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

Even the least likable people deserve grace, and even the lest likable people show grace. From the deepest hideouts of their souls, they reach out to grace when they are about to lose everything, and this powerful emotion is described in the work “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor. The author creates memorable passages, which show the readers how grace affects the characters, who seem to possess only negative qualities, and who suddenly seek redemption as it is in Christian tradition. Grace is one of important themes in the work, which is noticeable in the actions and statements by two negative characters, the Misfit and the grandmother. The story shows how despite their many sins, horrific actions, and mistakes, both Misfit and grandmother try to reach for forgiveness and realize their flaws. The unmerited justification, which resonates with Biblical tradition, offers the readers a solution to both characters’ fates; although they realize they have done wrong, they also admit to their sins, explain their paths and reasons, which brought them to the situation, as well as accept the fact that they do not deserve their reality. 

The story centers on a complicated family whose grandmother makes her children and grandchildren go a journey, lies throughout the trip, and leads to the fatal outcome for all. From the very beginning, the readers begin to despise the old woman who, despite her manners and the image she tries to construct, is deceitful and very flawed. She breaks the rules on various occasions, lies to her grandchildren, and is manipulative toward her son. As a result, the family is unhappy, loses time, and then, ends up in a dreadful situation. The readers feel dislike for the character as grandmother is presented as a selfish troublemaker, a hypocrite with little concern for the feelings of others. She is not evil, but she is definitely not good, being the person she is. The most challenging part of grandmother’s personality is her desire to judge others as she is quick to criticize and make her conclusions on people and situations. The readers see how decisive and cruel she is in her opinions, and it only adds to the feeling of dislike. They realize that the character does not deserve grace due to her actions and thoughts, and they expect some sort of moral fall for her. After all, it is grandmother who lies to her family, makes them go on a trip, lose their way, and get killed in the end. 


Nevertheless, just when the readers are about to completely condemn the grandmother, the author shows the glimpses of grace, which change her entire being, and give new insights to the story. As she is about to die, she begins to behave differently. The readers feel the passage filled with her pain: “There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, "Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break”. The woman stands before the Misfit, a man who is about to kill her, and though she realizes it, she thinks about praying. The fear paralyzes her, and she cannot pray properly asking the Misfit to pray for her. In a way, it is a moment of grace. The woman is not simply scared to die; she fears death itself as she will be judged before God. Realizing this, she wants to pray and ask for forgiveness as she realizes the many sins she committed. The fact that she asks the Misfit to pray for her is another moment of grace. Although he is a murderous criminal, when the grandmother asks him to pray, it also symbolizes her forgiveness and her giving him her grace. She begins to think of various Biblical ideas and comes to terms with her past, which consisted of many mistakes she did. She realizes she is to be judged by God, and the realization that she is living her last minutes bring her to grace and make her a better person right before the end and a new beginning.

The story of the Misfit is different since he is an individual, who have murdered other people, and is in the process of killing grandmother’s family for the sake of new identity and freedom. However, he is also touched by the essence of grace when he talks to the grandmother. As she prepares to die, she talks with the Misfit about the Bible and Jesus Christ. The author writes: "If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would help you”. When the man asks her about Jesus Christ’s story, she explains it to him, and she also puts her head on the man’s shoulder and calls him her child. When she does so, she acts in a Biblical way showing her forgiveness for a criminal, and the Misfit feels the change of heart within the grandmother. The latter changes him as well. 

The Misfit explains his path and the fact that he does not deserve to be treated the way he is now. People perceive him as a murdered without knowing his background while, in fact, there may be many social and psychological reasons, which turned the man into the criminal. Although the readers feel like the Misfit may not deserve to receive grace, they also realize how much the grandmother has changed, and they also feel like she is giving their situation a much deeper and a more spiritual meaning. The Misfit tries to explain his story to the grandmother as he talks that the life has gave him nothing but cruelty. Nevertheless, the grandmother tries to give him something new to refer to. When she explains the Biblical story to him, she does not only feel the grace herself, but enables the Misfit to see some parallels between his and holy story. In the end, the Misfit admits there is a possibility for him to change his ways and become a different person. It shows that the grace has fallen on him as well, and although he does not change, he has been given the opportunity in a spiritual way. The ideas and words the Misfit utters show how much he misunderstood the Biblical teaching: “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything off balance”. However, when he continues, he adds that he would like to be there when Jesus was rising from the dead: “If I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now”. This is, in a way, a gracious moment for the Misfit, who comments on his sins and the way he turned up to be. 

Thus, the story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” provides the readers with various examples of grace affecting and influencing the characters, who are least likely to receive it. Although the characters of the grandmother and the Misfit are very flawed and sinful, they also deserve grace, and in their own unique ways, they experience it, which changes the readers’ perception on morality and humanity. They learn that all can change in a very special moment and spread the change to others.


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