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A Good Man Is Hard to Find Summary

Literary characters come alive in relationship to their environments, or setting(s) of their stories. Have a summary written on the setting within A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. Paper Masters' writers can explain how important setting is within a summary of O'Connor's work.

In each of the micro-settings of A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the grandmother directs and reflects the underlying tensions of the story. The microsettings are:

  • The home
  • The car
  • The Tower
  • The ditch by the woods

The grandmother symbolizes the central antipathy of trust/mistrust, Christ/Antichrist, and godliness/moral decay of the story. In the home she shares with her son and his family, grandmother functions as an oracle. Her warnings about the escaped Misfit land on deaf ears. Perhaps because her warning was false one designed to scare the family from going to Florida instead of going where she wanted—Tennessee. The home births the family into the world.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find Summary

Once in the car, their destiny is incubated through the discord, the deceit (the grandmother has hidden the cat) and the violent behavior of the children. The grandmother is portrayed as a Christ-like figure, sitting in the middle of the back seat with June Star and John Wesley on either side of her--Christ on the cross, flanked by two outlaws. The family has one opportunity at The Tower to stop their headlong ride to hell. Red Sammy, a whiney oracle says, “A good man is hard to find. Everything is getting terrible…”. Take heed, family. Don’t go on!

Finally, the setting shifts with the story after the family’s car tumbles into a “red gutted ditch” from which they will never escape. “Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep”--ominous symbolism that portends their horrible destiny. As if the maw of hell were ready to greet them, “…the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth”. The mouth of the woods, dark and dangerous, also suggests the grandmother’s incessantly open mouth--full of rancor, ambivalent memories and pride. Both the woods and the grandmother’s self-absorbed stream of words deliver danger. In the end, the grandmother uses her mouth/words to save herself, not her family, but herself.

Just before his death, Bailey leans against a tree to utter his last words in a vain effort to comfort his family. Instead of a tall, blue-topped tree, the impotent Bailey can only find a “gray naked pine trunk”. The reader knows that nothing good can come from this tree just as the wooden cross offered Christ no promise of hope. When two shots are heard, shots that killed Bailey and John Wesley, the grandmother “could hear the wind move through the tree tops like a long satisfied insuck of breath”. The woods, like The Misfit, take a certain satisfaction in the murders. Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” plays itself out as Nature goes flat for both The Misfit and the grandmother. The trees are quiet and the sky holds neither sun nor clouds when the grandmother dies at the feet of her killer—a man for whom occasional meanness is his only pleasure.

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