A Good Man is Hard to Find

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A Good Man is Hard to Find Quotes

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. 

“She wouldn’t stay home for a million bucks,” June Star said. “Afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.”

Related Characters: June Star (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

While the grandmother's pettiness makes readers reluctant to accept her warnings about the moral decay of today's youth, the grandchildren actually do seem rude and spoiled. In this quote, June Star is openly mocking her grandmother and, in a sense, manipulating her into taking the trip that the rest of the family wants by telling her that she has no way to bargain since she would never skip a trip, no matter where they go. This also paints a picture of the grandmother as a nosy, gossipy woman who would never "miss something" even when it's something she doesn't approve of.

This quote seems to validate the grandmother's concerns about the erosion of manners and goodness, but it also paints a picture of a family with deep interpersonal problems. Nobody here is presented as being truly kind or polite; all the family members seem selfish and engaged in conflict with one another. Since the grandmother, the mother of the children's father, is the oldest member of the group, this behavior does reflect back on her in that she seems to have failed to raise respectful descendants. This allows readers to perhaps accept the grandmother's hypothesis about the erosion of politeness, but simultaneously requires readers to question where the blame for such erosion should rest. 

Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

Related Characters: The Grandmother
Related Symbols: The Grandmother’s Hat
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage reveals important things about the grandmother's sense of goodness and propriety. First, her old-fashioned wardrobe choice shows that she wants to be equated with the nostalgic past society that she believes was superior to the present day. She believes that if found dead in these clothes people would know she was a "lady"—in other words, that she was good and respectable. Clearly the content of her character cannot be conveyed by her clothes, but her seeming belief that it can be shows that her sense of goodness and morality is somewhat shallow. 

This also shows the grandmother's flippant attitude about death. She treats it as an abstract occasion that can be meaningfully dressed for, as though once she were dead it would matter what a stranger assumed about her based on her wardrobe. This passage foreshadows the ultimate outcome of the story, in which the grandmother is forced to truly face her own mortality.

“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.

“Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?”

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

Just after the grandmother has admonished John Wesley for his disrespect of his home state, she turns around and says something blatantly racist about an African-American child. This further casts doubt on the goodness of the grandmother's morality, since she is far more concerned about preserving abstract respect for Georgia than respecting the particular child she is gawking at. This also illuminates a troubling aspect of the grandmother's nostalgia for the goodness of the past; the past to which the grandmother refers is one in which the South was much more deeply racist and oppressive. This moment of casual racism by the grandmother darkens each following instance of her lamentations about social decay and her regret that the politeness and goodness of the past are fading. This quotation forces us to see that the grandmother's narrative of moral erosion is in direct conflict with the narrative of social progress for African Americans.

The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.

Related Characters: The Grandmother
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

This comes in response to the grandmother telling a racist story about a suitor from her youth. While John Wesley liked the story, June Star seems to think that the suitor's gestures of love were inadequate. O'Connor sets this conversation up so that the reader expects the grandmother to either defend his gestures or agree with June Star, but instead the grandmother pivots and tells her granddaughter that marrying this man would have been a good choice because he became wealthy from Coca-Cola stock. This further points to the grandmother's pettiness and materialism by showing that she values a man's money more than his gestures of care and love. The grandmother is seemingly so concerned with goodness and propriety that we would expect her to speak of the quality of her suitor's character, but it seems that all she cares about are material things and the appearance of being proper that can be associated with money. 

“Ain’t she cute?” Red Sam’s wife said, leaning over the counter. “Would you like to come be my little girl?”
“No I certainly wouldn’t,” June Star said. “I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!”

Related Characters: June Star (speaker), Red Sam’s Wife (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

O'Connor has created a grandmother whose character is thoroughly revolting, but she does not present readers with a contrasting character who is moral and good. This has the disorienting effect of forcing readers to confront each character's failings rather than identifying with one who is "good" and reviling the others. This exchange further confirms that in addition to the grandmother being hypocritical and selfish, the children are likewise disrespectful and even unkind. June Star's willingness to insult a stranger who is serving her food is disturbing, particularly since the woman is actively trying to be nice to her. As the story advances, it becomes more and more clear that the family depicted is dysfunctional. It doesn't seem that anybody has been raised to be respectful and kind, and in this exchange in particular readers are forced to ask if June Star has inherited some of her grandmother's classism, as the reason she gives for not wanting to stay there is that the place is "broken-down." 

“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.

“It’s not much farther,” the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner.

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker)
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage the grandmother realizes that she has misremembered the location of the house that she has manipulated the family into taking a detour to go see. It is telling that instead of simply admitting her mistake, she feels humiliated by it and says nothing—clearly the moral thing to do would be to inform her son that he should turn the car around. However, her physical reaction to the embarrassment accidentally upsets her valise where she is keeping the cat that she was instructed not to bring on the trip, and the cat’s escape causes the car to wreck, which sets into motion the violent end to the story. Certainly the grandmother is at fault for the accident; she has manipulated the family into driving down a dangerous road and she brought the cat after being told not to. However, the accident seems to occur as some kind of karmic retribution for the grandmother’s behavior, and this introduces an issue that becomes important at the end of the story. The accident and ensuing violence seem to be a disproportionately harsh retribution for the grandmother’s behavior, and for the remainder of the story O’Connor forces readers to consider the relationship between punishment and crime, and the moral complexities and violence that a skewed relationship between the two can produce.

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.

The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on the top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile.

Related Characters: The Misfit
Related Symbols: The Misfit’s Car
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

While the accident marks the turn in the story, the appearance of the Misfit's car confirms the dark tonal shift that the accident suggests. The family has had an experience of violence (the car accident) and it has left them unmoved, so the black car that looks like a hearse coming around the bend can only mean that things are about to get worse. 

The appearance of a car that looks like a hearse (a peculiarly shaped vehicle designed to carry coffins) can only portend death. In a sense, this is an escalation of the story's theme of unjust punishment. Since the family members are not behaving like kind and moral people and the accident has not shocked them into reconsidering their behavior, the arrival of the hearse foreshadows the ultimate punishment. Certainly this is disproportionate to the "crime" of their petty behavior, but it proves to be adequate to the task of forcing the family members to confront their own failings and mortality.

His face was as familiar to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall who he was.

Related Characters: The Grandmother, The Misfit
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation has multiple meanings in the context of the story. Throughout the story, the grandmother has shown her flippant attitude towards death (recall her dressing like a lady so that people would know she was respectable if she died on the highway). When she sees The Misfit, whose association with the hearse makes readers think of him as a bringer of death, she thinks his face is familiar, but she cannot place it. This directly echoes her attitude towards death, which she recognizes as a vague possibility, but does not understand exactly the profundity and significance of it. 

This quote also has added significance in the context of the end of the story. While at this point it is suggested that the grandmother recognizes his face since she read the newspaper article about The Misfit, right before the grandmother is killed she seems to recognize The Misfit anew, and declares that he is one of her children. This is the climax of the story, the grandmother's moment of grace in which she experiences love and forgiveness for the man who has killed her whole family and is about to kill her. In this context, her initial uneasy recognition of The Misfit seems to mark the beginning of the grandmother's transformation. This moment can be seen as the stirrings of the true goodness within her that has laid dormant so long that she barely can recognize it. 

“I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), The Misfit
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Even though the grandmother is now barreling towards her eventual epiphany, she is still largely beholden to her typical petty logic. This quote is part and parcel with the grandmother's association of goodness and propriety with appearing respectable, rather than with exhibiting actual kind behavior. The grandmother knows that she is speaking with an escaped murderer, someone who would generally be considered the opposite of a "good man." However, because The Misfit looks like he might come from a wealthy or respectable family, she pronounces him to be good, just as she declared Red Sam good just because he told a vague story about giving somebody gas on credit. This quote, then, shows the absurdity of the grandmother's attitude about goodness, and her ineptitude as a judge of character. The quotation is also a bit ironic since the grandmother agreed heartily with Red Sam when he said that "a good man is hard to find." Here, the grandmother has found someone who is not a good man—someone who would seem to support her hypothesis that the social fabric of her youth is eroding—and she cannot even recognize him as such because her sense of morality is so concerned with appearances.

“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.

“Nome, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second as if he had considered her statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed from my brothers and sisters. ‘You know,’ Daddy said, ‘it’s some that can live their whole life out without asking about it and it’s other has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters. He’s going to be into everything!’”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

The Misfit says this in response to the grandmother desperately telling him that he is a good man. This seems to follow a modulation in tone for the grandmother, who has just shown her first tinge of "goodness" in calling after Bailey as he is led to the woods to be shot. It appears that the grandmother is beginning to recognize that her behavior and concerns are shallow, and she is beginning to show love for her family. Her character has shifted, which indicates that her declaring The Misfit a "good man" might be different than the delusional instances in which she has said this before. She seems now to be trying to appeal to a goodness that she fears he lacks, rather than identifying a goodness she believes he has. This goodness is a kind of basic human decency, not something based on the appearance of respectability or politeness.

However, the grandmother's appeal is in vain, as The Misfit is not operating within the moral and social frameworks that the grandmother believes in. In this quotation he confirms that he is from a "good" family, but says he has always been different from them, and he doesn't offer a reason why. This defies the logic that has structured the grandmother's world, in which being from a good family means a person should be good. This, in a sense, mirrors the grandmother's own family. While the grandmother believes herself to be a good, respectable "lady," her son and grandchildren behave in petty, shallow, and even mean ways that do not reflect well on their upbringing.

“I was a gospel singer for a while,” The Misfit said. “I been most everything. Been in the arm service, both land and sea, at home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive oncet . . . I even seen a woman flogged.”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

The Misfit says this after two pistol shots are heard coming from the woods—there is no doubt now in the mind of the reader or the grandmother that the family is in the process of being murdered. The grandmother asks The Misfit if he ever prays, and in response he casually lists his various occupations, placing the sacred (gospel singer) on the same level as the violent (the army) or the morbid (undertaker). He also lists violences he has experienced ("seen a man burnt alive oncet" and "seen a woman flogged") in the same sentence, without giving context or any emotional reaction to them. This suggests that The Misfit's world gives the same importance to religion as violence, and that he reserves no special reverence or fear for violence in the world. From this quotation, O'Connor makes us understand that The Misfit lives in a chaotic world where actions and consequences are disconnected, and violence occurs without reason. That The Misfit treats violence so casually is chilling, since it seems there is nothing the grandmother can say to dissuade him from the murders in progress.

“I never was a bad boy that I remember of,” The Misfit said in an almost dreamy voice, “but somewhere along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive.”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation comes in stark contrast to the grandmother's idea that a person's character depends on his or her station in life rather than his or her actions. It also contradicts the grandmother's idea that a person's character is fixed as good or bad, that a person can, in his or her essence, be "a good man." The Misfit seems to think his own character has shifted senselessly, without him having much to do with it. He wasn't a bad boy, he states, but he did something wrong and was dramatically punished for it. While here he appears to admit to having done something wrong, soon after he denies that he has done the thing he was punished for. This confusion of motive, morals, and even actual events further points to The Misfit's chaotic and violent worldview in which his own violent actions seem to just be random events happening to him.

It is also significant that in this quotation The Misfit places much more emphasis on the punishment than the action that caused him to be punished, suggesting that he has not taken responsibility for whatever he did wrong. When he says that the punishment buried him alive, it suggests that he has experienced some kind of rebirth or transformation. Fitting with O'Connor's interest in how violence changes people, The Misfit suggests that his punishment was a violence done to him that has transformed him into someone for whom morals are no longer relevant. 

“It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it.”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a confusing quotation, as it establishes The Misfit's unreliability and, perhaps, his mental illness. More important, it gives a sense of why he is dangerous. The Misfit's experiences in jail have led him to literally believe that punishments are arbitrary and are not only given in a way disproportionate to the crimes that caused them, but are also sometimes given without a crime having been committed at all, or for the wrong crime entirely. While the reader is left uncertain as to whether The Misfit is accurately reporting his experiences (doubt has been cast on his sanity, honesty, and memory), this quote allows the reader to understand that, by the logic of The Misfit's own belief, it would not be excessive or unjust to murder a whole family simply because one of them recognized him. In addition, because for The Misfit there is not a logical thread connecting violence to retribution and punishment, there seems to be no way to convince him to change his mind about murdering the family.

The ambiguous charge that The Misfit has murdered his own father also touches on the family conflict that has pervaded the story. Whether or not The Misfit actually did kill his father, the quote points to the possibility that it was familial strife that has led to his doom. For the grandmother and her family, it is similarly family conflict that has ultimately resulted in their deaths. This parallel forces readers to consider what exactly separates the behavior and character of the family and The Misfit. 

“Well then, why don’t you pray?” she asked trembling with delight suddenly.

“I don’t want no hep,” he said. “I’m doing all right by myself.

Related Characters: The Grandmother (speaker), The Misfit (speaker)
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

If readers have not yet understood that the logic of The Misfit's world is distinct from the logic of the grandmother's, this quotation erases all doubt. The grandmother informs The Misfit that if he prayed then Jesus would help him, and he agrees with her. When she then asks him why doesn't he pray, it seems that she thinks she has found a way to change The Misfit's mind about killing her, since she believes that being good and moral is something everybody wants. The Misfit, however, sees this kind of salvation as pointless. He believes that faith can't help him, since there is no point in being good, as violence and punishment will follow him whether or not he behaves. He is not concerned with morality, nor with the appearance of it. In fact, his statement that he is "doing all right by [himself]" shows that, for him, his behavior is correct. It is at this point that the grandmother loses courage and becomes very afraid.

“I call myself The Misfit,” he said, “because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

Until this moment, the name "The Misfit" seems to imply The Misfit's separation from society, either that he is different from other people, or that at least that he believes he is. However, in this quotation we learn that the name does not have to do with his assessment of his own place in society at all; he calls himself "The Misfit" because he feels he has been excessively wronged by others, to an extent that he can never reconcile his punishment with the things he knows he did wrong. Not only does The Misfit's name not imply that he is separate from society, he actually believes that he is similar to Christ, because Christ, he argues just before this quotation, was also punished excessively for a crime he didn't commit. This turns our original assumption, that the name references The Misfit's inability to fit into society, on its head; Christ is the moral center of the world that the grandmother inhabits, which implies that The Misfit sees himself to be at the center of some kind of social truth. This pronouncement also makes the case that The Misfit feels that his life of senseless violence is not only morally justified, but constitutes, like Christ's teachings, its own moral framework.

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. 

“Then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”

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

At the time that The Misfit says this it seems perverse and menacing. Because The Misfit has experienced such violence (in the form of his disproportionate punishments) that he no longer believes in traditional morals, it seems that, for him, the only reprieve from violence is to enjoy it. This seems, too, to validate the grandmother's concern that society is eroding; it lends a certain logic to that claim to think that violence begets more violence and less concern for others, as The Misfit's statement suggests.

However, The Misfit's response to his murder of the grandmother casts this statement in a different light. When Bobby Lee calls the murder "fun," The Misfit seems to retract this quote by telling Bobby Lee to shut up because "it's no real pleasure in life," seemingly referring to violence. The Misfit, then, seems to have had his own moment of grace. Transformed by his own act of violence against the grandmother, The Misfit does not express regret or even cast judgment on himself, but he does seem to recognize that the murder did not bring him pleasure. This implies that he is capable of feeling a certain concern and empathy for others, after all. 

She saw the man’s face twisted closer to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest.

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

This is the grandmother's moment of grace at its height. She knows she is going to die and she is no longer trying to change The Misfit's mind about it. Instead of simply being afraid, though, this moment of crisis brings her to a display of compassion her previous behavior did not make her seem capable of. When she sees that The Misfit seems to be about to cry, she reaches for him and tells him he is one of her children. This is such an emotionally powerful moment because it does so many things. It is, for one, the grandmother's forgiveness of a man who has done something unspeakably horrible to her family and is about to kill her, too. It is also an enlargement of her prior display of love for Bailey, which now extends to her declaring The Misfit to be a part of her family. This gives readers a sense of her newly realized love for her family, and her ability to spread that love beyond its biological confines—to see the truth about life and acknowledge the common humanity in all people. Last, this moment is tragic in that, even though the grandmother has experienced a moment of pure Christian love and goodness, she still must die. From this, we receive the message that love and goodness are essential to the human experience, but their power is personal and cannot necessarily subvert the trajectory of someone else's violence. Being moral, then, is important for the personal rewards it brings, but it does not erase or redeem all the tragedy in the world. Injustice and  morality coexist—one does not cancel the other.

“She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Related Characters: The Misfit (speaker), The Grandmother
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

In a sense, this is an explanation of O'Connor's ideas about the connection between violence and grace. The events of the story have shown that it took extraordinary violence to bring this petty and mean family to a point of showing true love and compassion. Violence, then, was what enabled the family to experience goodness by offering them grace (their moment of realization and transformation). What killed them was also, in a sense, what saved them.

What The Misfit is saying here is that he recognizes this; he saw the shift in the grandmother's behavior as she moved closer to death. When The Misfit first started talking to her she was selfish, manipulative, and shallow, but as she began to truly confront the violence she was experiencing she turned into a "good woman" for the first time. The extremity of the Misfit's statement is skewed by his own violent worldview, but he is recognizing here that if the grandmother lived every moment of her life with the same compassion that she experienced when she was about to be shot, then she would have been a truly good person.

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