Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hart to Find"
Flannery O'Connor's compelling fiction combines ideas of redeeming grace with instances of gratuitous cruelty to shock and puzzle her readers out of assumptions that their perfunctory beliefs keep them in touch with divine power and grace. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" exemplifies her disturbing juxtaposition of violence, ignorance, and pride, which she characterizes as a "reasonable use of the unreasonable" in her essay "On My Work" (Meyers 380).
Her use of irony, emotional distance, and jarring contrasts cover a straightforward plot with layers of implications in what would otherwise be a tale of the senseless murder of a family en route to Florida, a mundane quest turned into multiple, off-stage murders. The Misfit, psychopathic killer and his henchmen, come upon the family after a minor car accident, and ruthlessly kill the Grandmother's family in the woods while she concentrates on saving herself by manipulative, religious appeals to the Misfit to show some sign Christian fellow feeling, which she is too terrified to find in herself for her freshly murdered family. She tells him he must come from good stock; that he should pray to be saved; that maybe he was right; that perhaps he would accept a bribe to spare her.
The no longer smug Grandmother and the sadistic Misfit, engage in an absurdly disjointed exchange about theology by a ditch at the side of the road until it becomes plain that the Misfit's version of the notion that if Jesus did not represent God, than anything is permissible. "If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can--by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness." She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going ...