A Good Man is Hard to Find

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Red Sam Butts Character Analysis

Red Sam Butts, whose name we first see on billboards along the highway, runs a combination filling station and dancehall that also serves food. He is a fat man with a red face, and he advertises himself as a veteran with a “happy smile.” In conversation with the Grandmother, Red Sam expresses nostalgia for a simpler time when you could leave the front door unlocked. The Grandmother eagerly agrees with this and calls Sammy a “good man.” Sam states that “a good man is hard to find,” and claims that people are terrible nowadays. He also accepts the Grandmother’s theory about how Europe is to blame for moral decay in the United States. Throughout, Red Sam Butts is quick to participate in easy nostalgia for a romanticized past, although we also sense that he uses this kind of talk as a part of his sales pitch, and is in fact more callous and greedy than he likes to appear.

Red Sam Butts Quotes in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The A Good Man is Hard to Find quotes below are all either spoken by Red Sam Butts or refer to Red Sam Butts. 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

“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Everything is getting terrible. I remembered the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.”

Related Characters: Red Sam Butts (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

Flannery O'Connor takes the title of her story from this statement, which seems almost meaningless in context. Readers already suspect that Red Sam is hypocritical and perhaps cruel based on, among other things, his conduct towards his wife and his having a monkey chained to a tree. The conversation in which this quotation occurs is one full of nostalgic platitudes about the decay of contemporary society. The grandmother and Red Sam make many self-righteous statements about how they themselves are good but everything else is falling apart, giving vague and irrelevant examples like needing to lock screen doors or Europe's lack of frugality. Red Sam's statement that “a good man is hard to find” at first seems to be just as vague and meaningless as the rest of their chatter, but in the world of the story, where everyone is depicted as being somewhat unsavory, it rings uncannily true. Finding a good man is likely harder than even Red Sam and the grandmother suspect. This statement is also made in direct reference to The Misfit, the escaped killer who will murder the whole family at the end of the story. In hindsight, then, this flippant conversation about moral decay seems to disregard the true violence and chaos of society in favor of petty cliches, and points to the grandmother's shallow understanding of good and evil.

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Red Sam Butts Character Timeline in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The timeline below shows where the character Red Sam Butts 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
Goodness Theme Icon
...a filling station and dance hall, for barbecued sandwiches. The owner of the store is Red Sam my Butts, whose name was written on signs along the highway advertising his sandwiches and... (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... (full context)
Goodness Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
Red Sam comes in and tells his wife to hurry up and fill their order. He sits... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
The Grandmother asks if Red Sam and his wife have read about the Misfit. Red Sam’s wife says that she wouldn’t... (full context)