Flannery O’Connor created a short story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, as a part of a collection under the same name. The reader follows a family who goes on a road trip to Florida. They are not worried about the escaped criminal in that area, and it turns out to be a horrible mistake…
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📈 A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Plot Infographic
Below is a plot infographic of A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. It can be considered the best summarizer, as it contains all the story’s main events.
❗ A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Summary
A Good Man Is Hard to Find summary begins with the Grandmother trying to convince her son not to go to Florida. To prove her point of view makes sense, she states that there is news about an escaped convict, the Misfit.
Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Another argument, addressed to her daughter-in-law, is that the kids have already been to a sunny state. No one takes her seriously, and the family decides to go to Florida.
The Grandmother doesn’t want to leave her cat behind, so she hides it in the basket inside the car. By that time, she seems calmer about going to Florida and making jokes about her elegant lady-like dress and hat. As they set off for their road trip, she talks to the kids and tells some stories.
An 8-year-old boy, John Wesley, does not particularly like his home state, Georgia. He wants them to quickly drive through it. The Grandmother comments on his disrespectful attitude and says that it was different back in her day.
In my time… children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
As John starts a fight with his sister, June Star, their grandmother decides to calm them down by telling a story. She recalls a fine gentleman, Edgar Atkins Teagarden, who tried to win her heart by bringing watermelons. He was carving his initials on the juicy treats so that it would create an “E.A.T.” signature on them.
One day, the Grandmother says, there was no watermelon because a black boy perceived the carved letters literally and ate it. The short story appears to be entertaining enough for kids to make it until their next stop.
The family craves sandwiches, so they stop by Red Sammy Butts’ place, The Tower, advertised along the road on the billboards. Red Sam’s wife is taking care of the orders while Bailey’s wife plays with the jukebox. Little June Star is enjoying dancing and looking all cute so that even the owner’s wife wishes to have her as a daughter. The naughty girl replies that the place is too nasty for her to live in. It is far from the answer acceptable to the Grandmother, though…
As the food is getting ready, Red Sam himself comes to have a chat with the family. The topic of trust comes up. Everybody, especially the Grandmother, agrees that it is hard to find a trustworthy man these days. The restaurant owner shares the incident that happened a week ago. He was kind enough to let them get some gas on credit. The Grandmother approves such a deed and entitles him a “good man.”
At this moment, the author gives a hint on the origins of the story’s name. The Grandmother and Red Sam, along with his wife, discuss the recent news about the Misfit. The owner complains about the current state of the world.
A good man is hard to find… Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Then the family hits the road again. The Grandmother recalls that there is a plantation nearby that she loved visiting. Knowing that her grumpy son wouldn’t want to go there, she lies about the secret panel somewhere in the house. She comes up with the plot that there is a piece of silver hidden in there.
The kids are thrilled and desperate to go to the plantation. However, the head of the family refuses, and his children use the well-known strategy of being naughty. Not being able to stand this, Bailey agrees to look for a dirt road that is supposed to lead to the plantation.
All right!.. Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
As they make their way deeper into the woods, John Wesley imagines the house. He tries to figure out where the silver might be. Soon enough, though, they find themselves being pretty lost, and Bailey wants to turn around. The Grandmother realizes that she made an embarrassing mistake. The plantation must be in Tennessee, not Georgia.
This sudden realization makes the old lady kick the basket. The cat jumps out of it straight on Bailey’s shoulder. It results in a car crash, and everybody is thrown out of their seats. The Grandmother hopes to be injured so that her son won’t be so mad at her. Little June Star seems to be disappointed that everyone is alive.
The vehicle lands in a ditch on the side of the road. A couple of minutes later, a car approaches them.
The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Since the Grandmother makes some signals trying to attract attention, the black car stops just next to them. The driver is not rushing to help. He spends a good few minutes watching the family down there. He’s saying something to the other two people in his car.
Here, the reader understands that the plot of A Good Man Is Hard to Find takes a terrifying turn. The three men come out of the car carrying the guns. The Grandmother is quick to realize that she knows one of them. It is none other than the Misfit. The escaped convict points out that it is not right that she knows him. Bailey is mad at his mother for making that comment. He shouts out something so offensive that she begins to cry.
The Grandmother tries to reason the Misfit, saying that he is too good of a man to kill a lady.
Listen… I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Surprisingly enough, but the man agrees and admits that he comes from a sweet family. The Misfit tells his friends, Bobby Lee and Hiram, to escort Bailey and his son to the woods.
Meanwhile, despite the Grandmother’s attempts to please the Misfit, he says that he is not as good of a man as she says. The next moment when he says he is not religious at all, they hear two gunshots. The old lady starts chanting, and the reader has a chance to find out something from the Misfit’s past.
He says that he has always been a bit different from his siblings. He was the only one who ever had more questions to answer, unlike his clueless brothers and sisters. At this moment, the Misfit also takes time to apologize for being topless and gives some excuse. He and his friends had to borrow these clothes from someone else since they buried their jail outfits when they escaped.
It appears that he was a good boy, a gospel singer. However, at some point, he committed a crime and went to jail.
I never was a bad boy that I remember of… but somewheres along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive…A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Some of the details about the prison follow. There, he was told that he killed his father, even though there are no memories of it in his head. The Grandmother wants him to pray so that Jesus would help him, but it seems like the convict is fine on his own.
Hiram and Bobby Lee come back from the woods and now take Bailey’s wife and the other two children. The woman willingly agrees to “join” her husband. The little spoiled June Star doesn’t want to go because Bobby Lee reminds her of an ugly pig.
The convict puts on Bailey’s shirt, but the Grandmother is too terrified to realize it’s her dead son’s one. She keeps repeating, “Jesus, Jesus.” The Misfit explains the origin of his name. He came up with it because he doesn’t believe that the punishment he received was equal to the crime. Moreover, he confesses that now it’s his habit to sign all the papers and keep a copy because when he was put in jail, he never saw the paperwork.
Then, they hear another three gunshots, and the Grandmother now begs to spare her life.
Jesus! You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Meanwhile, the Misfit calmly wonders how one person is punished for doing nothing wrong, and the other goes away.
He also talks about Jesus and how confusing his miracles are. If Jesus actually raised the dead, then people should be following him. However, what’s the point of being good if he didn’t? Everyone can live their lives as they want and be as sinful as they wish. Moreover, he states that he would live to be there to see with his own eyes if Jesus actually raised the dead.
The delusional Grandmother calls the Misfit one of her children and even reaches to touch his shoulder. But apparently, it triggers the man somehow as he jumps back and puts three bullets in her chest.
Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.A Good Man Is Hard to Find
According to them, she would be much better than a nice woman “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
The summary of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find ends with the Misfit saying that there is “no real pleasure in life.”
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