“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a short story written by Flannery O’Connor. It was first published in 1953 and has since become one of O’Connor’s most frequently anthologized works. The story is known for its darkly comedic take on issues of morality, religion, and the potential for redemption. It revolves around a family’s road trip to Florida and their fatal encounter with an escaped convict named The Misfit. The narrative is rich with O’Connor’s signature use of Southern Gothic elements and offers a biting critique of the moral decay she perceived in the American South.

One Sentence Summary of The Story

On a family road trip to Florida, a grandmother’s manipulation leads to a deadly encounter with an escaped convict named The Misfit, challenging notions of grace and redemption.

One Paragraph Summary

A Good Man Is Hard to Find - Summary of The Story
A family embarks on a road trip to Florida, but their journey takes a dark turn after the grandmother convinces them to detour to see an old house. Along the way, their car overturns, leaving them stranded. Their situation worsens when they encounter The Misfit, an escaped convict. As the grandmother desperately tries to persuade The Misfit of her own righteousness and his need for prayer, he orders his companions to execute the family members one by one. The story culminates in a chilling confrontation between the grandmother and The Misfit, exploring themes of grace, redemption, and the inherent flaws of human nature.

Full Plot Summary of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”


The story begins with a family preparing for a vacation to Florida. The grandmother, who doesn’t want to go to Florida, tries to persuade her son, Bailey, to visit East Tennessee instead. She cites a news article about an escaped convict, the Misfit, who is said to be heading to Florida.

Rising Action

Ignoring the grandmother’s concerns, the family sets out for Florida. During the trip, the grandmother talks incessantly, often reminiscing about her youth in the Old South and lamenting the loss of good manners in the present day. She distracts the children with stories and manipulates Bailey into visiting an old plantation she remembers.


However, the grandmother realizes she made a mistake: the plantation isn’t in Georgia but in Tennessee. As she processes this, she accidentally kicks over her cat, Pitty Sing, who was hidden in a basket. The startled cat jumps onto Bailey’s shoulder, causing him to lose control of the car, which overturns. While the family is still recovering from the accident, a car approaches. Three men get out, and the grandmother immediately recognizes the leader as the Misfit.

Falling Action

The Misfit and his companions, Hiram and Bobby Lee, interact with the family. The grandmother desperately tries to convince the Misfit that he’s a good man, hoping to avoid any violence. However, one by one, the family members are taken into the woods by the Misfit’s companions and shot.


The grandmother’s conversation with the Misfit becomes more desperate and erratic. She even tries to convince him to pray, hoping for a last-minute redemption. However, in a sudden moment of panic, she touches the Misfit, calling him one of her “babies.” He reacts violently and shoots her three times in the chest. The story concludes with the Misfit claiming that the grandmother would have been a good woman if someone had been there to shoot her every day of her life.

Main Characters Overview

The Grandmother

The central character of the story, the grandmother is a manipulative, self-absorbed elderly woman who often reminisces about the past. She holds onto traditional values and laments the moral decline of the younger generation. Throughout the story, she tries to assert her will on her family, using various tactics like guilt and manipulation. Her encounter with the Misfit forces her to confront her own beliefs and the superficiality of her moral code.


Bailey is the grandmother’s son and the father of the children in the story. He is often exasperated by his mother’s antics and tries to maintain control over his family. Bailey’s role is primarily that of a mediator, trying to keep the peace during the family’s trip.

The Mother

Bailey’s wife is a quiet woman who doesn’t play a significant role in the story. She is mostly in the background, tending to the baby and occasionally speaking up but is largely overshadowed by the grandmother’s dominant personality.

John Wesley and June Star

Bailey and his wife’s children, John Wesley and June Star, are typical kids. They are outspoken, restless, and often disrespectful, especially to the grandmother. Their comments provide comic relief in the story, but they also highlight the generational gap between them and the grandmother.

The Misfit

The story’s primary antagonist, the Misfit, is an escaped convict who confronts the family after their car accident. He is a complex character who challenges the grandmother’s beliefs about good and evil. Despite his violent actions, he is contemplative and philosophical, questioning the nature of faith, redemption, and humanity.

Hiram and Bobby Lee

The Misfit’s companions, Hiram and Bobby Lee, are less developed than the Misfit. They follow his orders without question, taking the family members into the woods and executing them. Their presence amplifies the threat posed by the Misfit and adds to the story’s tension.

Historical and Personal Influences of The Author

Flannery O’Connor wrote “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” in the mid-20th century, a period marked by significant social and cultural changes in the American South. The story reflects the racial tensions, changing social dynamics, and the clash between old and new values. O’Connor, a devout Catholic living in the Bible Belt, often infused her works with theological themes, exploring the nature of grace, redemption, and evil. Her personal battle with lupus, a debilitating disease, also influenced her perspective on suffering, morality, and salvation.

O’Connor’s Literary Landscape

Flannery O’Connor is renowned for her distinctive style of Southern Gothic literature, which combines dark humor, grotesque incidents, and moral philosophical exploration. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is emblematic of this style. When compared to her other works, like “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” or “Good Country People,” there’s a consistent exploration of the human capacity for evil and the moments of grace that can emerge from these dark encounters.

Reception Over the Years

Upon its initial publication, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” garnered mixed reactions. Its violent climax and morally complex characters were jarring to some readers. However, as time progressed, literary critics and scholars began to recognize the depth of O’Connor’s narrative, her skillful use of symbolism, and her profound theological insights. Today, the story is celebrated as one of the finest examples of O’Connor’s literary genius and a cornerstone of Southern Gothic literature.

Comparative Literary Analysis

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” stands out even in the rich tapestry of mid-20th century American literature. While contemporaries like William Faulkner and Carson McCullers also delved into the Southern Gothic realm, O’Connor’s blend of dark humor, theological exploration, and stark human truths is distinct. The story’s exploration of grace amidst evil can be juxtaposed against the works of other authors of the era, who often grappled with themes of identity, morality, and the human condition against the backdrop of a rapidly changing society.

Adaptations in Media

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” has inspired various adaptations across different media platforms, showcasing its enduring appeal:

  • Film: A short film adaptation directed by Jeri Cain Rossi in 1991 captures the story’s tension and moral complexity.
  • Music: The song “A Good Man” by the band Husky Rescue was inspired by the story, capturing its eerie atmosphere and thematic depth.
  • Theater: The story has been adapted into stage plays, with performances bringing to life the chilling confrontation between the grandmother and the Misfit.

My Personal Touch

After reading Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” I was left with a lingering unease, a testament to the story’s powerful narrative and characters. O’Connor masterfully blends Southern Gothic elements with profound existential questions, leading to a chilling climax. The grandmother, with her flawed morality, and The Misfit, with his cold detachment, are particularly striking characters that challenge our perceptions of good and evil. The story’s blend of dark humor, sudden violence, and deep introspection makes it a compelling read that stays with you long after you’ve finished.

What do you think? You are welcome to let me know in the comments!

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