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A Good Man Is Hard To Find Symbolism Essay

Symbolism in A Good Man is Hard to Find and Araby Essay

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In the short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, by Flannery O'Connor, every object including the characters are symbols. The Grandmother for example is the one and only dynamic character, represents all of us who have had to feel grief or needed to ask for forgiveness. As Flannery O'Connor has suggested, the story is a spiritual journey because of the Grandmother's quandaries. In the beginning of the story the Grandmother is obsessed with everything worldly and superficial. She cares only about how others perceive her,
“Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the…show more content…

He acts like a mirror. He lets whatever the Grandmother says bounce right off him. He never really agrees with her or disagrees, and in the end he is the one who kills her. His second to last line, “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life,”(O'Conner 425). might be the way O'Conner felt about most of us alive, or how she felt that God must feel about us. The third, and final stage of the Grandmother is the moment of recovery. She finally sees The Misfit for who he really is, a person just like her. He is not someone who was made by his social class. He is a simple human being just like her. At this point she sees herself in relation to everyone else. She finally realizes that her class does not make her. Society makes the class, and she just fits into it. She shows this by claiming that The Misfit could be one of her own beloved children.
For the longest time in her life, she reasoned with the final judger, and her redemption all add up to the spiritual plight that we all must take in life. Everyone may not all be Christians, but the journey of spirituality applies to everyone. We all must travel it at some point. We all know it, and that makes this story common to us all.
I think that “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is written partially in order to “convert” people who have not yet fully accepted the Christian faith. O’Conner, herself obviously being a strong believer in Christianity,

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Grandmother's Hat

The grandmother's hat symbolizes her selfish nature. She wears it so observers will know she is a lady—even when she dies. The hat also symbolizes the grandmother's hypocritical beliefs. She passes herself off as a Christian, and putting the needs of others before her own should be part of her beliefs. However, the grandmother does not worry about other people—even her own family members.

When the accident occurs the grandmother's hat is damaged though it remains "pinned to her head." Once The Misfit's men begin leading her family members to their deaths, the grandmother touches her hat and the brim breaks off. The narrator states, "She stood staring at it and ... she let it fall on the ground." While this symbol of what it means to be a lady has been destroyed, she does not yet change her ways. Instead, she frantically tries to manipulate The Misfit into believing he is "a good man" who would not shoot a lady.

After her entire family is murdered in the woods, the grandmother is at last able to leave her selfishness—and her hat—behind. She reaches a moment of grace in which she clearly sees that she and The Misfit have something crucial in common: each of them is a child of God. Now able to care about someone other than herself, she reaches out to The Misfit—showing forgiveness and empathy.

The Misfit's Automobile

While the grandmother's stunned family sits waiting for assistance beside their wrecked car, The Misfit's vehicle, described as a "big black battered hearse-like automobile," looms over the family sitting in the ditch, as if it is waiting to lead a funeral procession. The automobile symbolizes death.

The death is of the family itself, which has been approaching since the grandmother announced that The Misfit is on the loose in the first paragraph. Death has been referred to throughout the story, including when the grandmother worries about her appearance should she end up dead on the highway and when the family car passes the graveyard.

The Misfit's automobile symbolizes not only the death of the family but also the death of the old South. The way of life that the grandmother grew up with and views as correct and proper is also dying. African Americans are receiving greater freedoms and achieving higher positions. The automobile is commonplace, and people are less tethered to their homes and neighborhoods. They are driving everywhere. Lastly, religious observance is also on the decline. People are leaving organized religion.


There are references to numerous animals in the story, such as a monkey, parrot, rabbit, hippopotamus, cat, pig, cow, and caterpillar. Characters and items are described using animal references: The Misfit is "a different breed of dog from my brothers and sisters." When he grows angry discussing religion with the grandmother, his voice becomes "almost a snarl." The children's mother wears "a green head-kerchief that [has] two points on the top like rabbit's ears." The characters, as a whole, show animal instincts.

Animals exist in the moment and do not consider the consequences of their actions. In deciding their destination Bailey does not consider that there is a dangerous killer on the loose in the area. The grandmother lies to get Bailey to take them to the plantation. Like animals Bailey and the grandmother focus on the needs of the now and do not consider the future.

The family members also show their animal instincts when the car crashes. Although stranded, they simply wait docilely, like trained animals, for someone to come along. Once out of their routine they do not know how to act. They need a shepherd to guide them and tell them what to do.

The Misfit and his men also use animal instincts, albeit different from those of the family. They descend on the family like a pack of predators. Unlike the family members, the animal instinct they mimic is the survival instinct. When the grandmother declares, "You're The Misfit! ... I recognized you at once," this recognition triggers The Misfit's predator instincts. These instincts do not allow for sentimentality. He does not react to the grandmother's compliments about him being a good man. He systematically has his men kill the family before finally killing the grandmother.

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