As per my usual, this post is a response to the short story A Good Man Is Hard To Find, by Flannery O’Connor. And again as usual, the story is linked for your convenience.
This story confused me for a good chunk of time. After a few re-readings, I’ve decided the best use of this response is to talk about what makes someone a ‘good man’, because that’s what I think this story is about.
The grandmother is an interesting character, but she seems to be all over the place. She places value in her femininity and appearance, which doesn’t seem like a misguided ideal but some could see her as shallow and that she cares less about character and more about looks.
She also (albeit inadvertently) lies to her family about the plantation. The grandmother uses the story of The Misfit to try and coerce her family into traveling to Tennessee instead of Florida. She throws around the word ‘good’ at almost every character in the story.
While you could say the grandmother does so for her own benefit or survival, I would counter that and say that she considers people to be good only if their morality is convenient for her. The Misfit doesn’t answer her question about whether or not he would “shoot a lady”, but nevertheless she calls him a good man because it fits her needs at the time, mainly surviving the encounter.
On the opposite end, The Misfit has a consistent modus operandi, if you will. He challenges her questions about religion with surprising insight that one might not expect from a presumed serial killer.
The grandmother expresses the sentiment early on that good men were more abundant in the ‘good old days’. Given her definition of good, we can take this to mean that more people shared her same mindset.
While her offensive language is well beyond dated to us in the 21st century, nobody else in the story reciprocates her words either. Clues like this could mean she feels surrounded by people who think differently than her. This might be one of the reasons the wants to return home to Tennessee in the first place; to surround herself with people who fit her loose standard of ‘goodness’.