"A Good Man is Hard To Find" Question

I started reading Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” yesterday. I was shocked by the sudden violence at the end, but I am confused as to why it’s a Catholic story. What makes this story about the Catholic faith?


Wow, I don’t know. Flannery O’Connor is known as a Catholic writer, a Southern writer, and a writer with a dark vision. Certainly the story is dark, and it is Southern, but I don’t see the Catholic angle.

If anyone wants to read this short story, its online:

I do find there is some symbolism of the character named John Wesley, wasn’t he a protestant leader back in the day?

If you want to understand the “Catholicness” of O’Connor’s work, I recommend this book:

Unmasking the Devil: Dramas of Sin and Grace in the World of Flannery O’Connor by Regis Martin

The book title kind of gives you the nutshell version of it. O’Connor’s stories are all about sin and grace. She lets her readers see sin and evil in all its ugliness. Hence, her stories are a bit dark.

Just think of the story title in relation to Original Sin. A good man is hard to find when we all suffer with the ill-effects of concupiscence.

You’ve just read one of my favorite stories! Don’t think about O’Connor’s work as “Catholic” work. She was Catholic. She wrote about Christianity. But to categorize her work merely as “Catholic” is reductive.

That said, if you’re looking for what she’s saying about religion here, look at the grandmother (sorry, it’s been a while since I read the story, so I don’t remember specific names). Re-read the section where she mistakes the killer for her son upon noticing his shirt. And then listen to what the killer says. He says that he sees good in her in that moment, something he believes she’s incapable of without a gun to her head.

It’s strange, but the deranged killer offers the greatest wisdom in this story. He sees the grandmother’s true nature. If you’re not careful, you might read this as O’Connor criticizing Christianity, but what she’s doing is criticizing Christians, something she does often in her stories. She saw so much hypocrisy in the group she belonged to, and she exposed it, repeatedly. She wanted people to hold themselves to higher standards, often to the standards with which they held others.

I’m glad you’ve discovered the wonders of Flannery O’Connor. On the surface, many of her stories seem shocking and inappropriate, but once you “read between the lines,” so to speak, most of her stories deal with sin and the need for redemption. That’s not all her stories are about, but it is a running theme.

In the case of “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the misfit can be seen as a prophet who has lost his way. He can see the truth about people, as shown in the case of the grandmother, but for whatever reason (it’s been a while since I’ve read the story) he has resorted to killing people. I read an interview with O’Connor about this story and she said something along the lines of the Misfit going on to do what he is meant to do–allegedly become a prophet.

On the violence and odd humor in a lot of O’Connor’s stories: IMHO, violence and humor are the best ways to get people’s attention. Her raw and visceral stories capture the attention of people of all backgrounds.And to be quite honest, redemption can be violent. Our Savior’s death on the cross wasn’t a warm fuzzy act; Passion of the Christ was more violent than any Flannery O’Connor story. In that respect, it makes sense to discuss brutality in a story dealing with redemption. An agnostic buddy of mine and I are going to read “The Violent Bear it Away” this summer and discuss it. By refraining from straight up preaching, O’Connor can bring the Truth to a lot of people. Believe me, she is a lot of what began to bring me deeper into my faith.

Again, Flannery O’Connor is ballin’ out of control, and I recommend you keep reading her. You’ll understand her writings more as you read her stuff.

Ooooo…now you got me interested!

I’m somewhat of a classic mystery fan, mainly Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, with a bit of Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark in there too (she’s a Catholic)

Now you got me piqued-I’m going to check out one of her books right now!

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