It is possible to address a large group of people about a problem in the society? People like to think so, and they try through a process called a satire. A satire is a way to point out a problem of society through a form of writing. It is meant to promote change. Examining a story’s theme is a way of revealing what is being satirized. A lot of satires can be very comical, while others are dark and serious. Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is one of those deeper, dark satires. After reading this text it really shocks its readers into a reality check about society.
The most distinguished theme within this story is that there are not any truly good people in the world. Every person has flaws in their personality, or a dark side to them. This idea is shown in the text through the different family members, specifically the father, the two older children, and the main character, the grandmother. To begin, it’s important to understand the basic premise of the story. The story begins with a family going on a vacation. The grandmother tries to convince her son, Bailey, to go to Tennessee. However, she loses the argument and the family heads to Florida.
Upset with the decision, the grandmother brings up an article she read that talks about an escaped convict, The Misfit, that is heading towards Florida. On the way, the grandmother tells the children about a house with a secret panel and suddenly the children gain a strong interest and finally Bailey angrily gives in to seeing the house. While driving on the dirt road, the grandmother realizes the house is actually in Tennessee, not Georgia. She, then, panics and the cat attacks Bailey and he wrecks the car. When they’re in the ditch, they notice a car stops and three men exit.
The grandmother recognizes one of them, and becomes very frightened when she realizes it’s The Misfit. The grandmother then tells The Misfit, over and over again, that he’s a good man. And he says he knows that he isn’t a good man, but he isn’t the worst either. After a couple trips into the woods, together, Harlem and Bobby Lee, The Misfit’s partners, killed Bailey, June Star, the wife and baby, and John Wesley. At the end of this story, the grandmother continues telling The Misfit to pray but he, then, picks up his gun and shoots her.
And to finish, The Misfit states that she would’ve been a good woman if someone had been around to shoot her every minute of her life. One could analyze this dark, deeply themed story by examining some of the characters in this text. One of the characters that articulate the theme in the text is Bailey. He is the son of the grandmother and the father to the characters, June Star and John Wesley. People believe that fathers should be caring towards their children, but also be able to discipline them when needed.
One can see how mentally weak Bailey is when they’re driving in the car and the children are begging to go to the house with the secret panel. The narrator states that “John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney” (O’Connor 7). This quote shows that Bailey is weak in the sense that he never did anything to stop John Wesley, and he wasn’t disciplined at all. Bailey let his younger son walk all over him. On top of that, people believe men are very strong figures, mentally and physically, and are protective over those whom they care for.
However, O’Connor uses Bailey to show that even men are flawed beings. One can see that Bailey is displayed as a cowardly character in the way he reacts after being asked, by The Misfit’s partners, to step into the woods with them. The narrator suggests that “Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man” (O’Connor 11). This quote proves how helpless Bailey is in this point of his life and the situation he is in. He doesn’t try to protect himself nor his family. He acted as if his life was already over so he didn’t do anything to ensure that it wouldn’t end.
Bailey is just one of the many characters in the text that show the negative traits that the people of society have. The next characters that articulate the theme of the story are Bailey’s children, June Star and John Wesley. Society believes that children are supposed to be pure, harmless, and innocent beings. And, when they’re older is when they might show themselves as “bad” people. However, in this story, John Wesley and June Star are two children, probably a little younger than their teenage years, and they’re both extremely disrespectful and deceitful. O’Connor has used these characters to show that even children have negative traits.
This can first be seen with June Star. June Star has a very disrespectful personality, which is obvious after she does her tap dance routine at a restaurant and the waitress asks if she’d like to come be her little girl. In response to this compliment, the text reads. “No I certainly wouldn’t, June Star said. ‘I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks! ‘ and she ran back to the table” (O’Connor 14). This disrespectful reaction to a stranger proves how mean and disrespectful she really is, especially because she didn’t feel any guilt for treating the waitress, someone she didn’t know, like that.
Not only is June Star disrespectful towards strangers but also the people in her family. This is evident when both of the children are begging to see the house with the secret panel while riding in the car. The narrator states that “John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother’s shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do” (O’Connor 7).
This quote proves that June Star was not only disrespectful, but also unappreciative. To June Star, it doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger or someone in her family, she’s very disrespectful. June Star’s brother, John Wesley, is just as flawed as his sister. He is equally disrespectful and cruel, and this can be seen after the grandmother suggests The Misfit catching them during the start of their road trip. The narrator states, “I’d smack his face,’ John Wesley said” (O’Connor 3). This quote shows that John Wesley is also very disrespectful to strangers.
The Misfit is a grown man and John Wesley is suggesting smacking his face; being that John Wesley is just a kid, he shouldn’t be acting nor thinking about smacking an adult. John Wesley is not only disrespectful, but also very deceitful. One can see John Wesley’s sneaky nature when the family is talking about the house with the secret panel while driving on the dirt road in the car. The narrator states, “You can’t go inside this house,’ Bailey said.
“You don’t know who lives there. ”While you all talk to people in front, I’ll run around behind and get in a window,’ John Wesley suggested. (O’Connor 8) This passage shows John Wesley is sneaky in the sense that he’s breaking into the house through a window because he doesn’t know the owner, he just wants to see the secret panel and is willing to do whatever it takes see it. This also is another example of him being disrespectful in the sense that he is willing to break into a stranger’s house without permission. Clearly, O’Connor used these children to show the negative traits of society not only in adults, but also children. But, they’re not the only other characters in the story but show these traits.
The final character to show these negative traits is the most prominent character, the grandmother. Society believes elders are sweet and innocent, and every one shall respect them. However, it is clear, O’Connor makes a point to show that not everyone does respect the grandmother. She also shows that she is not sweet or innocent. One can see the grandmother’s manipulative personality when the family is discussing where they want to go on vacation to before leaving. The narrator suggests the grandmother says, “I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it” (O’Connor 3).
The grandmother only says this statement for her own benefit. She doesn’t want to go to Florida like everyone else and she’s trying to make reasons why they shouldn’t go there, so she brings up The Misfit getting loose hoping the family realizes how dangerous it is to travel there and change their mind. Throughout the whole story the grandmother makes a point to show how christian-like she is, however, after analyzing her through the end of the story we realize that is not the case.
One can see how not very christian-like the grandmother is when they’re driving through Georgia and the grandmother is talking to John Wesley and June Star about her younger years. The narrator says, “Little riggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, l’d paint that picture,” (O’Connor 4). In this passage, the grandmother is not only being judgemental, but also very racist, which is not christian-like. O’Connor does a good job of proving that everyone, no matter the age, has negative traits within them.
In the short story, ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” the author uses a form of writing called a satire in hopes to shock its readers in a reality check. A satire is meant to promote change, and that’s exactly what O’Connor tries doing in the writing of the short story. The most prominent theme in this story is that no one in the world is truly a good person. She uses the characters within the story to show every person has flaws in their personality. These characters include the Bailey, June Star and John Wesley, and the grandmother. After reading this story, one might ask him or herself if he or she is a good person.