“A Good Man is Hard to Find”
In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the obvious representations of power and powerlessness are reversed. Here O’Connor presents an intriguing character study that tells the story of an encounter between two completely and symbolically opposite people whom she names ‘the Misfit’ and ‘the Grandmother.’ It is a story of rejection and denial destroying a life; that of the Misfit, whereas his victim, the very image of goodness, represents true power despite her complete lack of it. Thus O’Connor urges her readers to reconsider the true nature of power, juxtaposing the purity of the Grandmother with the violence of her captor to prove that true power is love void of fear.
The most significant moment of this metaphysical triumph is illustrated as the Misfit, a criminal psychopath, holds the Grandmother at gunpoint with the clear intention of executing her as he has done easily in other situations. Initially, the Grandmother begs for him to find compassion in his heart and spare her life- she presents herself as a pitiful old Christian woman. Here she is absolutely at his mercy and he holds all power. However, O’Connor describes a moment of revelation rooted in the Grandmother’s deep faith in which “her head cleared...” and a vision of the Misfit, born of compassion, allows her to find love in his eyes. At this moment, she looses all fear of her oppressor and nothing becomes more important to her than conveying this love to him, that he is “one
of my babies.” Thus she receives the true power in the encounter and this expression of love strikes him like the bite of a snake. He fires his gun at her to snuff out the terror that
such goodness provokes in him. “The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.”
Flannery O’Conner’s story mirrors the Scriptural account of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Although it seems that goodness has been...