Study Guide

A Good Man is Hard to Find Good vs. Evil

By Flannery O'Connor

Good vs. Evil

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" is a confrontation of between a grandmother with a rather superficial sense of goodness, and a criminal who embodies real evil. The grandmother seems to treat goodness mostly as a function of being decent, having good manners, and coming from a family of "the right people."

What a contrast, then, when the grandmother encounters The Misfit, who seems straightforwardly evil, with little to no sense of guilt, and a genuine desire to do cruel or destructive things for their own sake. Understanding the motivations of The Misfit, and what "goodness" means by contrast, is one of the central puzzles of the story.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

  1. According to the grandmother, what is a "good man"? Is she sincere when she calls Red Sammy a good man? How about The Misfit?
  2. What motivates The Misfit – why does he do what he does? Is he a wholly evil character? Why or why not?
  3. Why would The Misfit say he never thinks the punishment fits the crime? Is he genuinely innocent, or does he believe himself to be? Has he forgotten his crimes? Does he have no sense of right and wrong?
  4. What does it mean when The Misfit says the grandmother would have been a good woman if he had been there to shoot her every minute of her life? What kind of "goodness" does he have in mind? Is this the beginning of a transformation in The Misfit?

Chew on This

The Misfit has no sense of right and wrong, and for this reason doesn't feel any punishment can ever "fit" the crime.

The Misfit recognizes the grandmother's final gesture as good, and understands "goodness" to be the unconditional love given by divine grace.

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