In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, a southern family is taking a vacation to Florida, but the real journey takes place inside the family’s lives. One question that comes up in the story is what the definition of a good man is and how there is so few of them left in the world. Many of the characters in the story think of themselves as good people based on moral codes that they stand by. These moral codes are deeply flawed however, leaving each character blinded by their own self-righteousness.
The Grandmother identifies herself as having the best values. She completely overdresses for the trip in a “navy straw hat and collars and cuffs, so that if there was an accident, people would know she was a lady” (368). The narrator points out that she looks down upon other people as well. In the beginning of the story, she criticizes the mother for “not taking the children to different parts of the world and being broad” (367), and tells John Wesley that he “should be more respectful of his native state and his parents” (368). Despite being so judgmental, the Grandmother never criticizes her own dishonesty, hypocrisy, and selfishness. When she criticizes John Wesley about the state, she calls a little black boy “a cute pickaninny” (368) in the same sentence. She later says that little black kids do not have things like they do and that “if she could paint, she would paint that picture” (368). The Grandmother paints this picture later with a romantic story of the good old days on the Southern plantations. Her definition of a good man is even flawed. The narrator says she would have married Edgar Teagarden because “he was a gentleman who bought Coca-Cola stock, making him a rich man” (369). In the end, when the Misfit is killing her family members one by one, she tells him to pray for himself. But she never once prays for her own family or begs the Misfit to spare them. She is even dramatic when she pulls a handkerchief out to fan herself and tells the Misfit “you wouldn’t kill a lady would you” (373), effectively trying to save herself instead of her family.
The Misfit seems like an unlikely person to have morals, but he has a deep thought process that other characters seem to lack. The Misfit may be a reprobate with perverted morals; he is consistent and sticks by them. The Misfit is very aware of himself, telling the Grandmother “I’m not a good man, but I’m not the worst either” (374). With this consistency and self-awareness, the Misfit can rely on his moral code, however twisted, to guide him in his life. This is really shown in the end of the story when Bobby Lee suggest that is must have been fun to shoot the Grandmother, in which the Misfit replies “it’s no real pleasure in life to kill anyone” (377). He knows he must kill her and sticks with it. This is in sharp contrast to the Grandmother, who fails to live by her own moral code throughout the story.
The values and morals that people have make up their character. Moral codes are nothing more than a set of beliefs that a culture believes to be right. The Grandmother thinks that values are based on how you look and where you come from. Despite thinking of herself as a lady, she manipulates and deceives those closest to her. Although the Grandmother sets herself to a high standard, she lacks compassion and self-awareness. The Misfit’s moral code, although twisted, is strong and consistent, allowing him to live his life by it. He is true to himself and does not lie about who he is, unlike the Grandmother. A good man is really hard to find in this story. When Red Sam tells the Grandmother the story about him getting swindled for the gas, she calls him a good man. She then tries to tell the Misfit he is a good man because she believes he would not shoot a lady. What she fails to realize is that she is not calling people good because they are moral, but because their values are the same as hers. The only good man to be shown throughout the story is the Misfit, because even though he has a twisted and perverted moral code, he is the only one that sticks to his principles.