A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a short story written by Flannery O’Connor. It is not only one of her best literary works but also highlights about the outcomes of life.
Just like most of her write ups, this tale also displays her deep religious insight. Not only that, it also projects her proficient use of local dialect and color.
As you will read the story, you will realize that each of the information carried deep symbolism. And this write is all about those symbolisms that you may not have noticed.
The story opens as a family prepares to take a trip to Florida. The characters have been introduced gradually afterwards in the story; where the grandmother is the main one. She lives with her son Bailey and his wife along with her 2 grandchildren. The most detested character is Misfit, a serial killer who has been introduced later.
The grandmother wants to visit relatives in east Tennessee and uses it as the escape from the villain. She tried to persuade her son but he refused to change his mind. His children June Star and John Wesley are portrayed as smart alecks but never understood their grandmother and her intentions. Later, she is seen to be the first to get into the car and as the story progresses, her conversation has been depicted as shallow, self-centered and conventional.
On the way, she talked about Toomsboro, an old mansion. Not only the children got enticed by the made-up story of a mysterious gate in Toomsboro, but also along with their grandmother convinced Bailey to take detour to actually see it.
She tells him that the dirt road which they passed a while ago would get them to the mansion. However, by the time she realized that her assumptions were wrong, the car ran into the ditch. As the members assessed their injuries, Misfit showed up with his armed henchmen.
The grandmother instantly blurted out that she recognized him for which the family members were taken into the woods and be killed. While her family was being killed, Misfit was discussing religion with the grandmother. At a moment of Christian sympathy, she informed him that he was one of her sons only to be shot right after for three times.
It carries the family from one place to another and is driven by the people inside. It is basically a shell that symbolizes a person’s body carrying mind and soul.
The sky signifies 3 variants of a single symbolic theme while representing mind state.
The sky is seen to be full of clouds at the beginning of the family’s journey. If you consider the sky a container of thoughts, then clouds will symbolize obstruction of thoughts that simply means blindness.
Just like the grandmother has her own takes of what goodness really is, the 2 children have their own takes of what the clouds really look like. In the mind of grandmother, there are clouds that keep her from sighting the sun that in connotation means the light of truth. She regards these clouds of her mind as the real obstruction.
The Misfit looked at the 6 of them huddling together before him. When the family encountered him, the sky was devoid of all the clouds which meaning there was no blindness of thoughts. But then again, there was not sunlight either, referring to no light of truth. In this scene, the empty sky reflected the grandmother’s empty mind state during trouble.
The sky was even empty when Misfit shot grandmother. However, this time, it signified more of a peace of mind rather than emptiness.
The Old Plantation House:
The old house is the symbol of enticement. The family was driving on the highway that represented true path of life. With this representation, the Grandmother tells the grandchildren about the old house with secret treasures for tempting them.
The Dirt Road:
When the family left the highway signifying right path of life and got on to the dirt road that was assumed to lead to the old house, it represented that they have got themselves into the path full of sins. The dirt road has been depicted as something hilly with sudden curves and washes. In the same way, the sinful pavement that looks tempting, is considered to be harder and riskier to travel for the likelihood of sudden unfortunate events.
It represents how each character is spiritually stuck in the ditch. Neither the family can move forward in their belief, nor they can move backward.
Except for the Grandmother, all the members of the family were taken to the woods and shot one after another. In this scene, the woods represented death.
The Grandmother’s Death:
At the time of shooting the grandmother, the Misfit had sprung back as if a snake bit him. This caused him to shoot her 3 times through the chest. In this scene, the number of times the Grandmother was shot also possess symbolic emblem. It could refer to the third day when Christ was raised from the dead after died on the cross. It can also be said that she was spiritually dead all her life but it took the third shot to kill her physically and make her alive spiritually.
Possibly, it can signify that the Grandmother rose like Jesus, although not as an impersonator of Him but as a devotee.
It’s the name of the town that the family came across. The name hints at death, suggesting the death of family. It can also be the symbol of tomb since the name pronounces much like tomb indicating the grave of the family.
The Grandmother’s Hat:
The grandmother wears a hat just for the sole intent of showing that she’s a lady. This can signify her misguided moral code. When she prepared for the automobile trip with her family, she dressed up to be prepared for calamitous event so that if someone sees her dead body, they would know that she had been a lady.
She seemed to be completely unconcerned with the fact that she is dead would be in this scenario. She also seemed unaware of the fact that other family members would also die along with her.