A Good Man is Hard to Find
by Flannery O'Connor
A Good Man is Hard to Find Summary
How It All Goes Down
It's time for a family trip of some kind, and there's a disagreement in the family about where to go. Bailey wants to take his family, (i.e., his wife, baby, and two kids, John Wesley and June Star), to Florida. His mother, called simply "the grandmother," doesn't want to go there. To make her case, she mentions that there's a dangerous criminal named The Misfit on the loose, and that he's headed that way.
No one seems to take her seriously. The next morning, it's off to Florida they go. Everyone piles in the car, including the grandmother, who seems to have acquired some enthusiasm for the trip. (She's also secretly stowed away her cat, Pitty Sing.) They hit the road and begin the trip from Georgia to Florida.
During the trip the grandmother plays games and tells stories to the kids. They stop at a restaurant to eat, and converse a bit with the owner, Red Sammy, and his wife. The grandmother talks with the couple about how hard it is to trust people and find "good men" these days. She also talks a bit about The Misfit.
Back on the road, the grandmother gets the kids all excited by telling them about an old plantation she once visited that's located nearby. The kids convince the reluctant Bailey to take them all to see it. He turns onto a dirt road, which, the grandmother assures him, leads to the plantation.
After following the road for a while they don't see anything. Suddenly, the grandmother remembers that the plantation isn't here at all – it's actually in Tennessee. She is so startled by this realization (which she doesn't tell anybody), that she jerks, letting her cat out of the basket where she's stowed it. The animal is propelled onto Bailey's shoulder. A dramatic accident follows, as the car veers off the road and flips over. As June Star laments, however, no one is killed.
The family waits for a car to come along, and sure enough, one does. Only it's not quite the help they were expecting. It turns out that their "help" is none other than The Misfit and two of his buddies. The grandmother recognizes The Misfit, and tries to convince him he's a good man who couldn't possibly want to do anything to harm them. The Misfit orders Bailey and John Wesley into the woods, where his cronies shoot them. The mother, the baby, and June Star soon follow.
All the while, the grandmother, increasingly dizzy and in shock, talks with The Misfit, still trying to convince him he's a good man, and telling him he should pray to Jesus. This gives The Misfit the opportunity to tell a bit of his personal history and offer some his ideas on Jesus, about whom he's actually done some thinking. The grandmother, detecting a moment of vulnerability in him is suddenly moved to call him her child and reaches out to touch him. The Misfit responds by promptly shooting her three times in the chest.
The story ends with him telling his cronies, who've returned from shooting the others, to dump her body with the rest. "She would've been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life," he says.