A Good Man is Hard to Find
How we cite our quotes:
"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her. (135)
The grandmother is humbled here. She both sinks down – remember that before she was standing above The Misfit – and appears to lose her own confidence in Jesus. Is this wholly because of the trauma what's just happened to her, as in "How could God let this happen?" Or does it maybe also indicate that her faith was never that strong to begin with? At this point, ironically, The Misfit seems to have more faith than she does.
"I wisht I had of been there," [The Misfit] said, hitting the ground with his fist. "It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady," he said in a high voice, "if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now." His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared for an instant. (136)
Here it really does sound as if The Misfit does want help – he wishes he'd "been there" with Jesus. In other words, he wishes he had real faith, because he doesn't want to be the way he is. That said, the question is whether The Misfit, as he says this, actually has the beginnings of faith, or whether this is just a wish. The Misfit also looks uniquely vulnerable at this moment, and it's here that the grandmother's head clears, presumably because she sees that vulnerability.
[The grandmother] saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. (136)
The grandmother's "moment of grace" and The Misfit's response. We've got a lot to say about this elsewhere (check out "What's Up with the Ending") because it's the central moment of the story. Is this an actual transformation in the grandmother, a product of delusion, or a last attempt at manipulation? How you see it will also influence how you see The Misfit's reaction. Any reading, though, has to make sense of the violence of the reaction. It's as if at this moment he's encountered something very threatening, completely alien to himself, as in the "snake bite" image. What's either revealing or ironic about that image is that the snake to which the grandmother is compared is a creature often associated with evil or with being an "enemy of man" (as it is in the Bible story of Adam and Eve). Perhaps that's the way genuine good appears to genuine evil.