A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Themes

Themes

The major themes in A Good Man Is Hard to Find are: family, religion, moral decay, social class, grace & evil.

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: family.A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: religion.A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: moral decay.A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: society & class.A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: grace & evil.
FamilyReligionMoral DecaySociety & ClassGrace & Evil

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🎵 Themes in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A theme analysis essay of A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor should dwell upon the themes of religion, family, grace and evil, society and class, and moral decay. The minor themes include violence, death, education of children, punishment, forgiveness, and racial discrimination.

What Is the Main Theme of A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, good vs. evil is the principal theme.

Goodness is the essential grace in Christianity, which was highly important in the author’s worldview. Still, she avoids the black and white analysis of people’s actions, allowing the reader to consider what could be improved and what is incurable in the real world.

😈 Grace & Evil in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: grace & evil.

The characters of A Good Man Is Hard to Find live according to the moral codes that are dramatically different. Thus, each of them has their own vision of grace and evil.

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According to the Grandmother’s morality, a good person shall be honest, polite, and respectful.

She considers Red Sam a “good man,” even though his amiability is a marketing strategy to help his business. In her opinion, Europe is to be blamed for the decay of the US. Moreover, Europeans spend too much, which is a vice for the Grandmother. Therefore, the Grandmother has divided the world into black and white categories according to her moral principles.

On the contrary, The Misfit does not care about goodness and evil. He realizes that he is not a good person and has never been. He commits crimes to make the most of his pointless existence. When the Grandmother addresses his good side, the criminal explains that he does what he wants.

I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The Misfit is a grotesque character introduced to show the Grandmother that there is a greater evil than impoliteness, rudeness, or leaving her cat alone. On the background of the tragic end of her family, any other concerns and principles look like a trifle. But even the criminal can become a good person, at least the author leaves the reader with such a feeling.

👪 Family in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: family.

The relationships in the family are far from ideal. The father is reserved and irritated. It is unclear why he suggests traveling: “trips made him nervous.” The Grandmother lies and manipulates her relatives. In return, Bailey ignores, and the children mock her. The children’s mother is silent most of the time. She does not scold or educate her elder children. June Star and John Wesley are rude, uncontrollable, and ill-bred kids that show no respect to adults.

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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

Open or hidden conflict is the norm in the family. Moreover, the family members ignore each other’s wishes and never acknowledge the presence of any conflict. They do nothing to work on their relationships or to improve them. Only a real misfortune reminds them of their familiar love. The Grandmother cries out, “Bailey Boy,” when her son is killed. His wife screams, “Where are they taking him?” when the criminals are leading Bailey to the forest.

These quotes from A Good Man Is Hard to Find indicate that the family needed an emotional punch to reunite, but O’Connor did not allow them. If they had survived the meeting with the criminal, they would have become more attentive to each other. However, with time passing, their communication would have resumed its natural course.

🙏 Religion in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: religion.

The author’s Roman Catholic faith is reflected in her stories. The important role of religion theme in A Good Man Is Hard to Find is undoubtful. But as we will see in the religious theme analysis of the story, she disapproves of unconditional and thoughtless faith.

Before her death, the Grandmother makes her last gesture: “She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.” Touching the criminal was a genuine grace for the old lady.

She never perceived her faith seriously. She avoided thinking about the afterlife. However, she thought about how people would find her corpse and “know at once that she was a lady.” Ironically, her corpse is unlikely to be found in the ditch.

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The central conflict between the Grandmother and The Misfit revolves around the figure of Jesus. The Grandmother appeals to his religious sense and urges him to pray. But the criminal has a well-formed view on religion. He doubts that Jesus ever existed, which deprives the life of any sense or final point.

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.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Besides, if there is no one to say what is right or wrong, people can do anything they want. The Misfit’s principal statement is that he has much in common with Jesus, but nobody had a possibility to confirm the evil actions of the latter.

👔 Society, Class in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: society & class.

Society and class themes in A Good Man Is Hard to Find are mainly raised by the Grandmother, a person who remembers the “Old South” and feels nostalgic about it.

Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

She expects other people to treat her like a lady. She dresses so that if she dies, everyone would know she was a lady. Her character is a throwback to the times of flowery hats and white gloves. But it was also the time of slavery, plantations, and racial discrimination.

However, the Grandmother’s expectations clash with the post-WWII realities. There are no more slaves, so her remarks about black people sound weird and out of place. There are also no beautiful plantations to visit: in their place, one can find old graveyards. Nobody treats her like a lady. Moreover, nobody takes her seriously.

The Grandmother’s willingness to refer herself to the already non-existing upper class makes her a misfit in the new society. Her language is old-fashioned: she calls a black child a “pickaninny,” which is inappropriate in front of her grandchildren. The old lady tries to preserve the forms of behavior that are no longer viable.

🐍 Moral Decay in A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find themes: moral decay.

Flannery O’Connor leaves the reader perplexed: apparently, “good people” are hypocritical and morally corrupt, while the “bad people” manifest the integrity of worldview and critical thinking. The author distinguishes between the inner moral life and the outwardly social morality. Thus, there are two types of people in the story: those who are bad and know it, and those who are bad but think they are good.

The Misfit and the children are the only honest characters in the story. They are hard to deal with, each in their own way, but at least they are sincere.

I call myself The Misfit… because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The Grandmother is correct in her remark that the world has become less moral than it used to be. Her only mistake is that she and Red Sam are not the exceptions.

What Is the Moral of the Story A Good Man Is Hard to Find?

The story intends to show the transformative power of genuine compassion and grace. The key theme of A Good Man Is Hard to Find is formulated in its title. Genuinely kind and caring people are scarce, and those who feign their high morality are no better than criminals.

🎓 References

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"Themes." IvyPanda, 20 July 2021, ivypanda.com/lit/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-study-guide/themes/.

1. IvyPanda. "Themes." July 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-study-guide/themes/.


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IvyPanda. "Themes." July 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-study-guide/themes/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Themes." July 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-study-guide/themes/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Themes'. 20 July.