A Good Man is Hard to Find

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The patriarch of the story’s central family, Bailey is the Grandmother’s son and June Star and John Wesley’s father. Despite the constant distractions from his mother and children, he simply wants to go on a trip to Florida as planned. He is reluctant to take a detour to visit the house that the Grandmother remembers, and only gives in to stop being harassed by his children. Bailey seems to be a weary and irritable figure, worn down by the constant conflict in his family—particularly his mother’s self-righteous nagging and his children’s insolence.

Bailey Quotes in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The A Good Man is Hard to Find quotes below are all either spoken by Bailey or refer to Bailey. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of A Good Man is Hard to Find published in 1971.
A Good Man is Hard to Find Quotes

“I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.”

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), Bailey, John Wesley, June Star
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation sets up a central contradiction in the grandmother's character. She is constantly talking about goodness and politeness and she seems beholden to proper morals, but she is actually very petty and selfish. In this statement, the grandmother appears to be proclaiming that she would never endanger her family because her conscience wouldn't be able to bear it, but in reality she is trying to manipulate her family into vacationing in Tennessee instead of Florida. This statement, then, is a selfish one in the guise of being a helpful and loving grandmother. 

This also sets up a deep irony of the plot. The grandmother will later manipulate the family into taking a detour through a back road, and on that back road they will encounter the criminal to which she refers in this quote. In this way, she has done precisely what she says at the beginning of the story that she would not be able to bear to do, and we get to see exactly how her conscience responds. 

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“You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to East Tennessee.”

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), Bailey, Bailey’s Wife (the Mother), John Wesley, June Star
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

The grandmother is again using manipulation to goad the family into doing what she wants, which is to vacation in Tennessee. She frames this as being good for the children, since it would broaden their horizons and show them a new part of the country. However, this seems disingenuous since nobody, including the children, wants to go to Tennessee except her, and the narrator indicates that she is mostly just interested in visiting her "personal connections" in Tennessee. This suggests that the trip is motivated more by personal nostalgia than a real commitment to enriching the grandchildren.

The grandmother is also consumed by her belief that the goodness and propriety of society is eroding. Here she appears to appeal to that notion, stating that the grandchildren should be broadly traveled in order to be good, proper citizens. However, her self-serving motivations cast doubt on the sincerity of this seemingly deeply-held belief. 

The grandmother was curled up under the dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey’s wrath would not come down on her all at once.

Related Characters: The Grandmother, Bailey
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

After the accident, the grandmother's selfishness is acutely on display. Instead of worrying about the safety of her family, the grandmother cowers under the dashboard hoping that she has been injured, because she believes that an injury might ease her son's anger that she caused the accident. Her petty self-pity and disregard of others casts serious doubts on the quality of her character, and makes her lamentations about the decline of old morals farcical. 

This scene functions almost as a rehearsal for the dramatic and violent end of the story, in which The Misfit murders the grandmother and her whole family. O'Connor is interested in how violence and trauma affect people, and in particular how violence might open people to religious and moral epiphany. However, after the car accident the grandmother's character doesn't seem to shift; she remains in conflict with her family, she does not take responsibility for her actions, and she craves pity rather than true forgiveness. Because of this, the plot must escalate to truly depraved violence, which seems to be the only thing that allows the grandmother to experience grace.

“Listen,” Bailey began, “we’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is,” and his voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained perfectly still.

Related Characters: Bailey (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Grandmother’s Hat
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation marks the beginning of the characters' visible transformations. Bailey, in this quote, is the first to truly recognize what is about to happen to the family, but he never articulates it outright. Immediately afterwards, the grandmother adjusts her hat brim and it breaks. This is a moment of intense symbolism that resonates with the moment of Bailey's realization shown in the quote. The hat, which the grandmother put on so that she would appear to be a "lady" (in other words, so that she would appear respectable and good) breaks, and once her superficial signifier of respectability is gone, she is able to begin to see the situation, as Bailey has, for what it is. These are two moments in which O'Connor suggests that violence and the threat of violence have a unique capacity for bringing people towards truth and goodness. Once the characters recognize the violence that surrounds them, their behavior shifts for the better—or at least towards truth.

There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, “Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!” as if her heart would break.

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), Bailey
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

This moment, in which the grandmother expresses love for her son and seems on the verge of heartbreak, is the beginning of the grandmother's moment of grace. In a moment of extreme violence she is realizing what is important to her and allowing herself to be deeply affected by it. The story's preoccupation with the relationship between crime and punishment makes it impossible to ignore the disproportionate nature of the grandmother's family being murdered in retribution for, in a literal sense, her recognition of The Misfit, and, in a metaphorical sense, her petty and shallow behavior. However, this connection drives home that, even though the consequences for her actions seem extreme, it was nothing less than this level of violence that could lead her to epiphany. 

This moment also marks a turn in the family relationship. Throughout the story all family members have treated each other rudely and unkindly, and the grandmother's moment of grace ushers in this quotation, which is the first sign that she deeply cares for her son. The world O'Connor depicts is a dark one, however, and this moment of transformation does not alter the trajectory of the violence in progress. The grandmother's experience of grace benefits her in that it allows her to experience something good and genuine before she dies, but it cannot redeem or change the fate of her family. 

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Bailey Character Timeline in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The timeline below shows where the character Bailey appears in A Good Man is Hard to Find. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Good Man is Hard to Find
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...the Grandmother would rather go to Tennessee. She shows a newspaper article to her son Bailey, whose house she lives in. The article tells of an escaped convict known as the... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
Bailey ignores the Grandmother, so she then turns to Bailey’s wife, an innocent-looking woman holding a... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...and is hiding a basket with their cat, Pitty Sing, in it. Against her son Bailey’s wishes, the Grandmother has brought the cat out of fear that it would miss her... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...Grandmother sitting in the back with John Wesley and June Star. In the front sit Bailey, Bailey’s wife, and their baby. The grandmother records the car’s mileage, thinking that it would... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
The Grandmother holds Bailey’s youngest child, the baby. As they pass a graveyard, the Grandmother notes that it used... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
The family enters The Tower, and Red Sam’s wife takes their orders. Bailey’s wife puts music on the jukebox, and the Grandmother asks Bailey if he wants to... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...The house was lavish and ornate, and she remembers how to get there. Knowing that Bailey will not want to visit, the Grandmother lies, saying there was a secret panel somewhere... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...of the house, and John Wesley speculates about the placement of the secret panel. But Bailey says that they can’t go inside because people probably live there. John Wesley suggests that... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Bailey swerves when the cat attacks him, and the car crashes. The grandchildren are knocked to... (full context)
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...John Wesley asks what he has a gun for, and the man with glasses asks Bailey’s wife to collect and calm her children. “What are you telling US what to do... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
As Bailey attempts to explain their situation, the Grandmother interrupts, shouting, “You’re the Misfit!” The man in... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...he should not call himself “the Misfit” because he must be good at heart. “Hush,” Bailey demands, saying that he will handle it. Hiram says that the car will take half... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
The Misfit instructs Hiram and Bobby Lee to take Bailey and John Wesley over to the woods, telling Bailey that his men need to ask... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...and “borrowed these from some folks we met.” The Grandmother offers an extra shirt from Bailey’s suitcase. (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...Lee and Hiram arrive back from the woods, one of them carrying the shirt that Bailey was wearing. The Misfit asks for the shirt and puts it on. The Misfit explains... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
Two more gunshots ring out from the forest. The Grandmother raises her head and shouts “Bailey Boy!” once again. The Misfit states that only Jesus could raise the dead, and that... (full context)