I think that Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is written partially in order to “convert” people who have not yet fully accepted the Christian faith. O’Conner, herself being a strong believer in Christianity, probably thought that writing this story will help make people who aren’t really living by the Christian rules to seriously consider doing so. Flannery O
was deeply concerned with the values and the direction of the youth at the time. She believed that Christ was no longer enough of a priority to the people of her generation. "A Good Man
is Hard to Find" is representative of Flannery O'Connor's concern for the priorities and values of the 1940s.
An example of this, in "A Good Man is Hard to Find," involves the grandmother's strong, southern heritage. She dresses with the intention that anyone who finds her dead on the road will know she was a lady, and she is always telling stories of southern gentlemen courting her. Then, the Misfit, whom she "knows" is of quality, southern blood, shoots her and her family, despite her belief in southern hospitality. Grandma is a woman who believes in God, but it seems that her belief isn’t really strong up until her confrontation with the Misfit.
From what I understand, most of her works follow a similar pattern. The main character(s) are in some kind of trouble and at the end they see “the light” of God’s ways and have their redemption. Christians have often criticized her works for being immoral but in actuality she uses these extreme situations and portrayals to express the power of God in a positive light. The immoral character of the Misfit is very skillfully portrayed, as is the ‘enlightened’ character of Grandma. Most of the characters in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and, probably her other works, go through some kind of methamorphosis, a change in their views of the world and in their perceptions about life and death. Such character in this particular story is Grandma and, in my opinion, the Misfit. I think that the Misfit is constantly experiencing a deep inner struggle and this is revealed in his conversation with Grandma. Of course, O’Conner’s skillful portrayal of his helps the reader to detect some obscure details of the Misfits behavior, which are key elements in determining the Misfit’s state of mind. Those details are his gestures, his speech, and his thoughts.
Maybe, in a way, the Misfit represents the new generation of young and religiously misguided people, and Grandma symbolizes the old generation, which has grown somewhat distanced from religion. In my opinion this is a take on the missionary concept. Someone in the storyline is “converted” to stronger faith in God, and also there is a form of conversion of the reader by the author. Flannery O’Connor probably hoped to provoke her readers and to make them re-consider their own spiritual notions and ideals.
All said, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is an exceptionally well-written short story with both tension and provoking religious content. The ending doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though, it still is good for a short story. The plot may be a bit illogical when given more thought, but overall this is an exciting and interesting work, which can be enjoyed by non-Christian readers as well.