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Flannery O’Connor is a master of the ironic, the twisted, and the real. Life is filled with tragic irony, and she perfectly orchestrates situations which demonstrate this to the fullest extent. A Good Man is Hard to Find is an excellent example of the mangled viewpoint which makes her work as compelling and striking as it is.
Although this story is told in the third person, the reader’s eyes are strictly controlled by the meddling, ever-involved grandmother. She is never given a name; she is just a generic grandmother; she could belong to anyone. O’Connor portrays her as simply annoying, a thorn in her son’s side. As the little girl June Star rudely puts it, “She has to go everywhere we go. She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day” (117-118). As June Star demonstrates, the family treats the grandmother with great reproach. Even as she is driving them all crazy with her constant comments and old-fashioned attitude, the reader is made to feel sorry for her. It is this constant stream of confliction that keeps the story boiling, and eventually overflows into the shocking conclusion. Of course the grandmother meant no harm, but who can help but to blame her? O’Connor puts her readers into a fit of rage as “the horrible thought” comes to the grandmother, “that the house she had remembered so vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee” (125).
O’Connor uses many symbols to warn the reader of the impending doom that is about to befall the unknowing travelers. The grandmother is, of course, worried about The Misfit, and, not surprisingly, the family brushes off her concern. Here again is another conflict. If the grandmother can be blamed for the accident, can the family then be blamed for taking the trip in the first place? The grandmother warned them didn’t she? This may sound foolish, but it does follow the same logic. The grandmother also foreshadows the horrible events to come with her choice of attire to ride in the car. The “purple spray of cloth violets” (118) that she had placed on her blouse were to serve a purpose.
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O’Connor created a wonderful character in the poor doomed grandmother. She brought forth someone very simple, who at the same time possesses great depth. The movement of this story is driven by the conflict which the grandmother creates.
O’Connor, Flannery.“A Good Man is Hard to Find.”Ed. Frederick Asals. New Brunswick, New Jersey:Rutgers UP, 1993.