A Good Man is Hard to Find

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Grandmother’s Hat Symbol Analysis

The Grandmother’s Hat Symbol Icon

The Grandmother, in stark contrast to her family’s more casual dress, wears a fancy hat on their trip, confident that, if she ends up killed in a car accident, she will be found looking like a proper lady. Her concern for how she will be perceived after death shows that she is concerned with the appearance of respectability (and the morality that she associates with it) more than the reality of being moral or “respectable.” The Grandmother’s hat also makes it clear that she does not truly embrace the finality of dying. While the Misfit believes that the finality of death makes all Earthly efforts absurd and meaningless, the Grandmother buys into a more conventional view of mortality—focusing on appearances and not thinking too closely about the reality of death. It is no coincidence that the Grandmother’s hat is then destroyed when the family does get into a car accident. For all of the Grandmother’s attempts to prepare for a respectable death, she cannot control her fate once the harsh chaos of life (personified in the Misfit) interrupts her narrow world. Executed in a ditch by a known criminal, her death is far from orderly and proper. Rather than being identified as a “proper lady,” her body may never be found at all.

The Grandmother’s Hat Quotes in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The A Good Man is Hard to Find quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Grandmother’s Hat. 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

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.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other A Good Man is Hard to Find quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

“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.

Get the entire Good Man LitChart as a printable PDF.
A good man is hard to find.pdf.medium

The Grandmother’s Hat Symbol Timeline in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Grandmother’s Hat 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
Goodness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...front sit Bailey, Bailey’s wife, and their baby. The grandmother records the car’s mileage, thinking that it would be fun to see how many miles they have driven when they get... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...door clutching her baby, and the Grandmother is thrown into the front seat, her fancy hat partially destroyed. The car has rotated a full 360 degrees on its side, and now... (full context)
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...and Bobby Lee to take Bailey and John Wesley over to the woods, telling Bailey that his men need to ask him something. Bailey says, “We’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody... (full context)