A Good Man is Hard to Find

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A Good Man is Hard to Find Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Flannery O’Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia to a real-estate agent and his wife. At the age of six, O’Connor briefly became a minor celebrity when a film was made about her trained chicken. While O’Connor was an adolescent, her father was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, and he died from the disease several years later. After studying Social Sciences at the Georgia State College for Women, O’Connor was admitted into the highly selective Iowa Writer’s Workshop, a graduate program in fiction. In 1951 she was diagnosed with the same disease that had debilitated and killed her father, and she returned to live at her family’s old farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. Though only expected to live five more years, O’Connor lived fourteen, continuing to write prolifically, give lectures, raise birds, and travel until the end of her life. Over the course of her career she published two novels, two collections of short stories, and many essays. Her work has won numerous awards and honors, and she is now considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.
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Historical Context of A Good Man is Hard to Find
Flannery O’Connor lived in the Jim Crow-era South, where slavery had been long abolished, but society remained rigidly divided along lines of both race and class. Jim Crow laws meant that black Americans, although no longer enslaved, still lived under constant oppression and had few rights and freedoms of their own. The inequality between landowners and their employees and between blacks and whites meant continued struggles for the South, and many whites retained nostalgia for a romanticized vision of the “Old South,” a feeling at times connected with regret for losing the Civil War. Religious faith, too, was an integral part of the “Old South” society, which reflects itself in O’Connor’s writing, both in her personal faith and in her representation of the so-called faithful as liars and hypocrites.
Other Books Related to A Good Man is Hard to Find
O’Connor engaged with the tradition of Southern Gothic literature, which typically uses grotesque events to investigate Southern life. This genre became popular from the 1940s to the 1960s, precisely when O’Connor wrote most of her fiction. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is now considered a central part of the genre, along with other O’Connor works like “Good Country People” and Wise Blood. Gothic fiction was first made popular with Horace Walpole’s 1765 novel The Castle of Otranto, and centuries later Southern writers such as William Faulkner began incorporating macabre, supernatural, and mysterious events into fiction set in the American South. Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily,” is also considered a cornerstone of the genre. Decades later, writers like Walker Percy and Cormac McCarthy are still labeled as Southern Gothic writers. Though the term has been transformed, and some critics doubt its usefulness, the tradition has retained an interest in the dark and twisted, often accompanied by a powerful sense of irony.
Key Facts about A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Full Title: A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • When Written: 1955
  • Where Written: Milledgeville, GA
  • When Published: 1955
  • Literary Period: Southern Gothic
  • Genre: Southern Gothic Short Story
  • Setting: Twentieth Century Rural South
  • Climax: The Grandmother reaches out and touches The Misfit, exclaiming, “You’re one of my own children,” and he shoots her three times.
  • Antagonist: The Misfit
  • Point of View: Third-person, mostly following the Grandmother
Extra Credit for A Good Man is Hard to Find

Fifteen Minutes of Fame. At the age of five, a photographer came to take photographs of one of O’Connor’s chickens, which she had taught to walk backwards. Film footage of this later made national newsreels.

Not Well Received. At ten years old, O’Connor began to write a series of sketches of her family members. Later in life, she described the collection, “My Relatives,” as “not well received.” Many of her family members were apparently displeased with how they were portrayed.