A Good Man is Hard to Find

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The Misfit’s Car Symbol Icon

Described as a “big black battered hearse-like automobile,” the Misfit’s car is a clear symbol for death when it enters the family’s story of petty conflicts. A hearse, a type of car that is unusually long and designed to carry the coffin to a funeral, is an unambiguous indication that the idea of death has arrived—for both the family and in the mind of the reader. Sure enough, it turns out that the car’s passengers—the Misfit, Bobby Lee, and Hiram—are killers, and they end up murdering Bailey’s entire family. The hearse-like car thus also symbolizes that the Misfit and his henchmen are carrying a history of violence and death with them.

The Misfit’s Car 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 Misfit’s Car. 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

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.

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The Misfit’s Car Symbol Timeline in A Good Man is Hard to Find

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Misfit’s Car 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
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
...road, and behind the ditch are only woods. A few minutes later, they spot a car. The Grandmother waves her arms. The car, a “big black battered hearse-like automobile,” approaches. The... (full context)