A Good Man is Hard to Find


Flannery O’Connor

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Themes and Colors
Violence and Grace Theme Icon
Goodness Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Familial Conflict and Familial Love Theme Icon
Moral Decay Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Good Man is Hard to Find, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Violence and Grace

At the story’s end, the Misfit says of the Grandmother, “She would of been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Flannery O’Connor may not necessarily believe that being exposed to violence makes us better people, but the message is clear: violence changes us.

As Flannery O’Connor said when delivering remarks on the story, “I have found that violence is strangely…

read analysis of Violence and Grace


The characters of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” live by a variety of moral codes, and both the story’s title and the Grandmother’s conversation with Red Sam bring up the idea of goodness, and what makes a “good man.” In the end, as the Grandmother still insists that the Misfit—who has just murdered her entire family—is a “good man,” the question lingers: does being “good” depend on one’s internal character or…

read analysis of Goodness

Punishment and Forgiveness

Much of the discussion between the Grandmother and the Misfit concerns ideas of punishment and forgiveness. A vision of the world is presented in the Misfit’s words: “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain’t punished at all?” A fundamental question in Flannery O’Connor’s Christian worldview is the problem of evil: why do bad things happen to good people, and vice versa?

We are given no tidy…

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Familial Conflict and Familial Love

Only at the story’s end do we get the slightest hint of familial love. Not only does the Grandmother shout “Bailey Boy! Bailey Boy!” as the only real affectionate moment inside her family, but she then goes on to refer to the Misfit as her own son. These moments of familial love, arriving only when the Grandmother faces death, appear in stark contrast to the rest of the story, which is filled with family members…

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Moral Decay

The story’s title itself refers to the apparent moral decline witnessed by the Grandmother and others. There was a time, the Grandmother believes, when it was not so difficult to find good men, though we might wonder if that was ever actually true. To the Grandmother, though, the story’s action supports this belief. When stranded after a car crash, the family is not tended to by friendly neighbors, but by a killer and his henchmen…

read analysis of Moral Decay