"A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the title selection of O'Connor's 1955 collection, has received a great deal of critical attention. The story serves as an excellent introduction to O'Connor's fiction because it contains all the elements that typify O'Connor's work: a combination of humor and horror, grotesque characters, and an opportunity for characters to accept God's grace. Here the author narrates the story in juxtaposition with predominantly three prime themes viz. Prejudice vs. tolerance, God and religion and over all violence in relation to cruelty. To deal with the story it should be remembered that first the circumstantial evidences prevailing at the point of time. The socio-economic context is the most important scenario to understand the narrative of the story. The Civil Rights Movement Fueled with the speeches of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and with the deaths of several African-American activists, the civil rights movement was at its peak in 1955. (Brinkmeyer, 18-22). The story unfolds in this context. O'Connor's story is told by a third-person narrator, but the focus is on the Grandmother's perspective of events.
The first and very important theme of this story is the conflict between prejudices vs. tolerance. The Grandmother proclaims "Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. 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." (O'Connor, 137) on a different occasion she is dressed up "in case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady" (O'Connor, 138) shows the conservative nature of the woman which is nothing but an extended ego of her prejudices. Time and again her exclamations and statements narrates that she is not color blind in any sense. But once confronted with Misfit she appears more open and avant-garde with dialogues like "you shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know you're a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell" (O'Connor, 147) or when she tells him "I just know you're a good man, you're not a bit common!" (O'Connor, 148) This is a nice gesture to overcome her prejudice and convey herself as an open minded lady who is in the heart a tolerant person by nature.
The second theme of this story is the underlying faith in God and religion. The theological discussion at the end of the story, between the grandmother and The Misfit, has gotten a lot of attention from critics. Is she serious about him being her child Does he really believe in Jesus' miracles, since he believes there is no pleasure in life Religious beliefs, invoked only at a moment of dire need are nothing like the beliefs that people live by--or are sudden realizations the actual crux of religious belief There might not be any direct answers to these questions, but there is plenty of room for discussion. The "good man" of the title reverberates off the "good woman" of the last lines. The grandmother would have been a good woman, but during the earlier course of the story, the term "good man" is used quite loosely: the grandmother calls just about anyone she wants to please a "good man." She bemoans, with others, the lack of any real respect or goodness in the present day--people make this complaint all the time. (Gordon, 87) At the same time, she lies, and manipulates, and is generally a pain to everyone--she gets her entire family killed. At the same time, The Misfit does have some points: do punishments fit crimes What is "good" And what did Jesus really do, exactly Dialogues between Grandma and Misfit reveal in entirety the friction between them in terms if faith and a subdued inclination towards religion like "Pray, pray," the grandmother began, "pray, pray . . ." To this Misfit relies "I never was a bad boy that I