A Good Man is Hard to Find

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John Wesley, is Bailey’s eight-year-old son, a stocky boy with glasses. He is rude and vocal about his opinions, and treats the Grandmother with none of the respect she feels she deserves. John Wesley is the character most interested in visiting the house that The Grandmother speaks of remembering for her youth, and mostly seems curious about the secret panel.

John Wesley Quotes in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The A Good Man is Hard to Find quotes below are all either spoken by John Wesley or refer to John Wesley. 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. 

“Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much,” John Wesley said.
“If I were a little boy,” said the grandmother, “I wouldn’t talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills.”
“Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a lousy state too.”

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), John Wesley (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange further shows the conflict that the entire family is experiencing. The grandmother attempts to instill respect for Georgia on John Wesley, who is openly rude and mocking towards places that she loves. While John Wesley's behavior is not admirable, the grandmother's insistence that the children respect their native state is not based on any particular qualities of the state, but only on the fact that they are from there and so it is proper for them to respect it. This points, again, to how shallow the grandmother's sense of propriety and goodness is—it is not related to the intrinsic goodness of a particular person or thing, but rather the appearance of goodness based on the devoted following of social rules like respecting one's home state. While John Wesley is certainly disrespectful, the moral decay that the grandmother believes to be in evidence based on his disrespect of Georgia is actually not the most startling disrespect in the passage. It seems far more concerning that John Wesley is so rude to his grandmother, but the grandmother barely acknowledges this.

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John Wesley Character Timeline in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The timeline below shows where the character John Wesley 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
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...more broadening experience for them. Bailey’s wife seems not to hear, but her eight-year-old son, John Wesley , who is described as “a stocky child with glasses,” asks the Grandmother why doesn’t... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...day.” The Grandmother asks her grandchildren what they would do if the Misfit caught them. John Wesley says he would “smack his face.” June Star repeats that the Grandmother would never stay... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
The family leaves in the car, with the Grandmother sitting in the back with John Wesley and June Star. In the front sit Bailey, Bailey’s wife, and their baby. The grandmother... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
The Grandmother comments on the beautiful scenery, but John Wesley suggests that they “go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...does not allow them to throw their trash out the window, though they want to. John Wesley and June Star begin to fight, and the Grandmother asks if telling them a story... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...a black boy who saw the letters “E. A. T.” on it and ate it. John Wesley laughs at the story, but June Star is not amused: she says that she wouldn’t... (full context)
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...saying there was a secret panel somewhere in the house with silver hidden behind it. John Wesley and June Star, excited by the idea of the hidden panel, say eagerly that they... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
The Grandmother recounts more details of the house, and John Wesley speculates about the placement of the secret panel. But Bailey says that they can’t go... (full context)
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
...with glasses instructs one of his men, Hiram, to see if the car will run. John Wesley asks what he has a gun for, and the man with glasses asks Bailey’s wife... (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 him something. Bailey... (full context)