Representation of Family in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Essay

December 19, 2020 by Essay Writer


The short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor is one of the most appealing in the American Literature, revolving round family matters. The short story’s main actress, Bailey’s mother, commonly called grandmother dominates all the actions unfolding in the entire story.

Since she stays with her son’s family, the grandmother presents herself as a good mother, despite her being selfish. It is clearly brought out that, the nuclear family is not in coherence with the grandmother, since most of the actions the family undertakes seem to be against her wishes (Ochshorn, 131). This is reflected when she requests that they go to Tennessee, while on the other hand, Bailey’s family considers Florida as the best place to go. This paper focuses on the presentation of family as represented in the entire short story.

After the family gets involved in an accident, the famous ‘Misfit’ and his gang holds up the family and threatens to kill them. In reaction, the grandmother attempts to save her own life by pleading with the murderers to leave her alone. According to Bandy (134), the selfish nature of the grandmother and her disregard to her family is evidenced when she seems to care the safety of the other family members. Quite significantly, there seems to be weak bond of love between the grandmother and Bailey’s family.

This is reflected by her unfeeling nature of watching the entire family die around her, as she pleads for her life. As held by Ochshorn (135), the family presented in this story seems incoherent not in actual family-love bond, since there seem to be not feeling for the other(s) when they are in danger. As a result of the grandmother’s selfish nature, the entire family is killed, since if she could have kept quite, no member of the family could have died.

However, the grandmother may seem wicked in the last part of the story, but her initial personality implies that she was a good grandmother to her family. As revealed by Bandy (127) in the onset of the story, the grandmother treats the whole family with a lot of respect, in spite of their ignorance of her opinions. Even if she seems manipulative to the children to go and see a house which was not there, she said it craftily.

Though she is manipulated by the family to go to Florida against her wish, she tries to maneuver ways of avoiding Florida creatively. With reference to Ochshorn (137), the grandmother is trying to relate with her family well, though using twisted goodness. On the other hand, Barley and her family seem not to consider the wishes of the grandmother, implying their selfish nature as well.


It should be noted that, the grandmother’s final action is by no means a charitable act of trying to defend the family from being murdered, but rather a strategy to save herself. Though it may be argued that, the grandmother’s final moment was a gracious to the entire family, but her goodness is a pretended one since she seems not to care the death of the other family members.

Basically, the grandmother emerges as having pretended good life by respecting her family, yet she had no actual family love for them. Generally, the unfolding of various events revolving around the grandmother brings her out as being self-centered, despite of her pretended goodness to the entire family.

Works Cited

Bandy, Stephen. Means, Meaning and Meditated Space in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. The Southern Quarterly. 44.4, (2007): 125-142.

Ochshorn, Kathleen. A Cloak of Grace: Contradictions in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Studies in American Fiction. 32.4, (2004): 129-138.

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