Going through the writings of Flannery O'Connor, majority of readers will be hit by the cynicism that manifests itself in her writing, and more so in A good man is hard to find. She strongly comes out as very unsympathetic to the characters that she creates in her fictional writings. Instead, she appears very committed in bringing to life characters that are subdued, skeptical or exceedingly superficial. She seems more intent on exposing the worst traits of her fictional characters, to make the readers deride them or make a mockery of them. In many instances in the story, she successfully achieves this by being beguilingly open, as with a host of grandmother's little but significant manipulations.
Very prominent, though, the storyteller habitually depicts the fictional characters in the short story as caricatures. She almost implies that these characters were ludicrous and exaggerates their physical features. She writes that, "There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, "Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break" (O'Connor ). This caricaturing of characters, even though makes the readers laugh with the humor it carries, simultaneously troubles the readers. In the closing stages of the story, the grandmother is the only one still alive after the murder of all the family members by the Misfit, and readers would have imagined that it would be a sad ending to a story. And indeed it is, so the narrator should use words that are consolatory or sympathetic to go together with the mood of the readers at this particular time, yet the narrator--Flanner O'Connor-- describes the grandmother as 'a turkey'.
The description is delivered in such a humorous way that appears grossly funny to readers. The description is more befitting of a caricature than it is of a human being, and readers are therefore left asking themselves whether O'Connor is dehumanizing the grandmother. It is very evident that O'Conner paints humans in a ludicrously embellished manner, and in a manner that makes readers laugh at them rather than feel sorry for them. Almost like a comic tragedy. In the second paragraph of the story, Flannery O'Connor also describes Bailey's wife as "a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit's ears" (O'Connor ).The short story is amusing at the beginning since readers are oblivious of how the story will unfold. Its tone spectacularly changes from being humorous to startling and plays a significant role in the climax of the story.
Historical Context of the story
It is clear from incident in the car when grandmother reprimanding John Wesley about the need for him being proud of his native state that the short story is set in Georgia. We are however not informed of the exact city that the story was set in, nor are we sure of the exact year of the story's setting. But because of the citation of cars and the movie Gone With the Wind, we can guesstimate the story is set at around 1940s or thereafter. There is no particular citation of an ongoing war, so probably the setting is after the Second World War. There is a mention of Europe by the grandmother, and how 'they acted', something that can be taken to imply the actions of Europe after World War II. So the historical setting of Flannery O'Connor's short story is probably at around early or mid 1950. During this period, the civil rights movement was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., and O'Connor's home state was polarized by racial tensions. The use of the word 'negro' or nigger by narrator is perhaps an illustration to this period of heightened antiracism activism.
Literary Significance of Flanney O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find
Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find has attracted a considerable amount of critical acclaim and attention. This short story has been billed as a stupendous but exceptional opening to the fictional creative works of O'Connor since it carries every ingredient that came to define her works; grotesque characters. These elements involved the caricaturing of characters in fictional tales, and the infusion of startling and suspenseful horror moments in otherwise presumed humorous plots. Her infusion of religious Roman Christian sentiments at the end of her story, using the grandmother and grace has been replicated in other works, albeit by use of other characters that ultimately accept God's grace. Some critics questioned the use of violent portrayals in her writings, an aspect that was not common with the women writers of the 40s to 60s, but were in agreement that all her characters adequately conveyed particular sentiments of significance. .
Relevance of Story to Contemporary Reality
It is more than fifty years since A Good Man is Hard to Find was written. Many things have changed since the historical setting of the story. The racial tensions of 1950s Georgia is not existent. Nevertheless, some themes from the story still subsist to date. The classic theme in the story was basically the fight between good and evil. Grandmother embodied what is good, even though superficially, and the Misfit was the personification of evil. The fight between good versus bad is still ongoing in the current society. The story also carries the theme of family and manipulation that is exhibited by the grandmother. The grandmother continually attempts to manipulate the family in the hope of getting things done her way. It is a theme that resonates well with most families in the present society. It may not necessary be grandmothers manipulating other members; it could be anyone from children and parents to members of extended family.