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A Good Man is Hard to Find

A Good Man is Hard to Find


by Flannery O'Connor

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

There's a criminal on the loose. But let's go on a road trip anyway.

In the first paragraph, we get the essential information that a murderer called The Misfit is on the loose. We suspect that he's lurking in our characters' future. In the meantime, we get to enjoy all of the comedic delights of family squabbles as the grandmother and her family hit the road and dine at Red Sammy's. In the process, we learn as much about the characters as we need to.


There's a car accident…but nobody is killed. Yet.

That pleasant family vacation has taken a sudden turn for the worse. The family is now trapped and waiting for someone to help them. Who could it be? For the time being, everyone is safe and sound. (Alternately, you could place the beginning of the conflict at the moment the grandmother "remembers" the plantation being nearby. We suspect that something is about to go wrong, but don't know anything's going to happen until the accident occurs).


The Misfit arrives on the scene.

The Misfit shows up, making the situation much worse. The grandmother endangers the family by revealing that she knows who he is. Suspense builds, but doom is certain. One by one, the family members are killed in the woods, until only the grandmother is left. Meanwhile, the grandmother has been growing frantic trying to convince the killer to spare her life. Will she succeed?


"One of my babies!"…

The grandmother's moment of grace is definitely the climax of the story. It seems as though the grandmother triumphs in the end, since she's miraculously redeemed. But how will The Misfit react?


The Misfit kills the grandmother.

The suspense part of this story lasts for all of one sentence. That's as long as it takes for The Misfit to recoil and shoot the grandmother three times in the chest.


"Take her off and throw her where you thrown the others"

It's all over. The Misfit's thugs return, and are told to dispose of the grandmother's body. The grandmother appears to have died happily, smiling up at the sky. The lingering question is how this has affected The Misfit.


"It's no real pleasure in life."

The Misfit reverses what he said earlier. Is it possible that he's been changed by his experience with the grandmother?

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