"A Good Man is Hard to Find" - Decline in Society
"A Good Man is Hard to find" is consistent with Mary Flannery O'Connor's view that contemporary society was drastically changing for the worse. O'Connor's obvious displeasure with society at the time has often been attributed to her Catholic religion.
The grandmother is representative of godliness and Christianity which O'Connor apparently believed to be more prevalent in the "glamorous" Old South: The old woman settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children's mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collar 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 she was a lady.
The parents pay little attention to the grandmother and when they do, they are often quite rude. The unruly children are representative of the breakdown of respect, and discipline, and are consequently a forecast of future generations. The Misfit represents evil. At one point the Misfit likens himself to Christ, in that they both were punished for crimes they did not commit. Christ accepted death for the sins of all people, however, and not only did the Misfit not do that, but he also killed other innocent people.
Near the end of the ordeal, the grandmother recognizes the shirt the Misfit has put on as her son's shirt. Upon observing this image, she realizes that to be truly Christlike, she is going to have to forgive the Misfit and accept him as a child of God. Flannery O'Connor was deeply concerned with the values and the direction of the youth of her time. She believed...