A Good Man is Hard to Find
How we cite our quotes:
"If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would help you."
"That's right," The Misfit said.
"Well then, why don't you pray?" she asked trembling with delight suddenly.
"I don't want no hep," he said. "I'm doing all right by myself." (120-121)
The grandmother attempts to convince The Misfit to pray, presumably in the hopes that he'll spare her. She probably "trembles with delight" because his apparent agreement that Jesus would help him gives her hope that she can win out in the end. The Misfit doesn't pray, because he doesn't want any help. What's interesting about this claim is that it goes against many of the other things he says. At moments The Misfit seems to be content with his life of "meanness." At others, however, it seems like he wants something else, or is genuinely dissatisfied with his life and with the way he is.
There was nothing around her but woods. [The grandmother] wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing. (128)
The grandmother appears to be in a state of shock at this point, which is understandable. She has, after all, already lost her son and grandson, her daughter-in-law, June Star, and the baby. Why does she bring up the question of Jesus? Does she use religion to get The Misfit to spare her? Or is she calling to Jesus in shock, or perhaps cursing him for letting all of this happen? That "it sounded as if she might be cursing" suggests there's something inauthentic about her words, either because it's just a ploy, or because she doesn't believe what she's saying.
"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl. (134)
The Misfit has done a lot of thinking about Jesus, and in his own way, seems to take Jesus much more seriously than the grandmother does. Everything for The Misfit boils down to whether or not Jesus was really God. If he was, then The Misfit thinks it's obvious what one should do with one's life (i.e., follow Jesus). If Jesus wasn't God, there's no point to life at all. According to The Misfit, there is nothing to do in that case, except take pleasure in destruction. The Misfit has chosen the latter option, because he doesn't actually believe in God. Though it almost sounds as if he wants to believe, and is acting out of anger because he can't do so.