The central conflict in the short story is the contrast between egoism and grace. In the last moments before death, the grandmother turns to faith through a spiritual rebirth. She tries to convey the word of God to the sinner and murderer of her family, despite her sinfulness.
Flannery O’Connor’s works are beautiful examples of Southern Gothic, gloomy and grotesque. However, the most essential and fundamental element of her prose is the Christian faith. O’Connor’s rich theological knowledge about Christianity shows itself in her characters.
Living in the South in the Protestant surrounding influenced the setting of her story. The characters cry to God at the turning points of their lives. That is why the central theme of many of O’Connor’s works is redemption and the attainment of grace. The heroes go through their short life, like trials, full of ups and downs. For the most part, almost all of them are looking for some redemption or enlightenment. But they reach it only before death, if at all.
What about the conflict in A Good Man Is Hard to Find?
The story’s main character is a woman who does not even have a name. She is sitting in the family’s car and actively comments on the view from the window. The grandmother is hypocritical, imposes her opinion on everyone around. She is overly concerned about her status and appearance. Despite her venerable age, this woman is not an example of wisdom and virtue. On the contrary, she is full of sins, which she successfully justifies with her moral code.
All her way, the woman follows her inner foundations driven by egoism. Even the topic of religion is not raised since there is no need for her to address it. The irony is that this topic only comes up when there is an imminent threat of death. The moment the selfish grandmother brings her family to ruin by her actions, she remembers Jesus. But this moment is not yet real enlightenment. The grandmother uses the name of Christ to convince The Misfit that he is a good person. Although this statement sounds like a good intention, until the end, the woman does it only for herself. Throughout their conversation, she tries to protect herself. This is especially evident in the following words of the grandmother: “Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
And where is the spiritual transformation?
The change in the woman’s behavior occurs at the end of the book’s last scene. After listening to The Misfit’s story and understanding his pain, the woman suddenly feels warmth toward him. Seeing that his face is distorted as if he is about to cry, she gently touches him. This gesture, her last movement before death, is the grace that descended on her. With the gentle touch, she expiates her sins. The grandmother finally showed something other than selfishness or desire to save herself.
The description of her dead body confirms that it was a gesture of enlightenment, not an attempt to survive. “Her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.” As in many other O’Connor’s works, redemption came on the verge of death, which The Misfit comments. “She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” In these words, he emphasized the irony and tragedy of the situation. The story’s central conflict lies in this change from selfishness to grace. Thus, the author shows how often people need a radical change or a challenging experience to reach enlightenment.