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A Good Man Is Hard to Find – What is the Title’s Meaning?

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There are various assumptions about the title of the story by Flannery O’Connor. However, the main idea of the novel – good vs. evil – gives hints to explanation. In literal interpretation, the title symbolizes the absence of good people among the characters. Or, taken globally, it refers to a small number of good people in the world.

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A Good Man is Hard to Find (1953) is the most famous story by Flannery O’Connor. Its critical interpretations are numerous and unambiguous. What meanings did the writer insert into the title name? Although the message is not clear, it is worth trying to solve the puzzle.

The theme of the story is the question of good and evil. Through the title, O’Connor underlines the difficulty of defining “a good man.” Who is it? What qualities do they possess?

The period when the story was published coincided with prosperous patriarchal beliefs in society. Thus, the author describes some of the men’s characters, and none can be qualified as a good man. The more undignified they become as the plot unwinds. Think about it.

The main villain of the story, The Misfit, is a killer and pure evil. Bailey, the first character described, as opposed to The Misfit, does not kill anyone. Still, he is rude to his elderly mother. Red Sammy seems to come closer than anyone to the definition of a good man. But soon, the reader figures out that he mistreats his wife. Taking this into account, one can say that Flannery O’Connor plants a seed of the feministic movement. She depicts the fate of poor women forced to obey men.

There is no good man in the story. Everyone has their vice. The grandmother repeats this fact several times through the course of the action. She says: “It isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you can trust.”

When the family stops by Red Sammy’s, Sammy and Grandmother discuss what “a good man” is. They conclude that they are both good. The reader understands, though, that they are far from it. The grandmother, however, by the end of the story, is leaning towards being better. She tries to bring The Misfit to reason and appeals to God. For grandmother, a good man prays. For The Misfit, there is no good man at all.

The origin of the phrase mentioned in the title dates back to 1918. Then, Eddie Green, a musician, wrote a song titled A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The lyrics say: “A good man is hard to find. You always get the other kind.” Thus, it may occur that the author hoped the readers were familiar with the song. By giving a similar title, she foreshadowed the family’s encounter with the bad man in the story.

According to another possible opinion, the story was written when social ethics in America changed. This thesis clarifies the author’s willingness to touch upon the question of morality.

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IvyPanda. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find - What is the Title’s Meaning?" June 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-what-is-the-titles-meaning/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find - What is the Title’s Meaning?" June 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-what-is-the-titles-meaning/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find - What is the Title’s Meaning'. 1 June.

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