From the outside, The Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s tale “A Decent Man Is Hard to Find” appears to be blameless, honorable, pale, and innocent. He has good manners, which he seems to have learned from his parents. Despite his nonviolent appearance, he proceeded to murder his grandmother in cold blood. Despite the woman’s pleadings and attempts to contact him. Even though The Misfit showed positive traits, he is still a serial killer with a complex relationship with faith.
The ideal sense of the story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is discussed. The majority of them revolve around the Grandmother’s self-centered behavior. In the beginning, she concentrated more on how people viewed her such that “anyone seeing her dead on the highway will know at once that she was a lady” (O’Connor 518). This is an indication of the vain image of herself as well as her selfish desire to move to Tennessee rather than Florida. Despite her failure in saving herself, The Misfit notes, “she would of been a good woman” (O’Connor 530). The misfit seems to be a man who knows the Christian religion by the way he talks about Jesus Christ and him raising the dead, and it appears that he came from a religious family. According to Bonney, “although he is a murderer, the Misfit is the only character in A Good Man Is Hard to Find with any sense of what it means to ask morally serious questions about human experience, and this quality makes him remotely connotative of the eternal misfit, Christ, as the ambiguously punctuated text cautiously indicates when the grandmother unwittingly calls her killer “Jesus” just before her death, saying “Jesus, you ought not shoot a lady” (Bonney 347). He seems to be wise in the way he asks questions, knowledgeable, as well as being exposed to religion.
The Misfit provides his religious background when he said, “I was a gospel singer for a while” (O’Connor 519). The statement reveals that he had a past relationship with religion even though he had developed killer instincts over time. The Misfit also revealed that his father was a member of the Baptist Church. However, the most important part is that he has been many other things. He says, “I been most everything” (O’Connor 519). This reveals that The Misfit has been relentless in his pursuit to discover what will satisfy him but it seems he was never successful. Therefore, he is either looking for what will satisfy him or he has already given up altogether.
Secondly, the final grandmother’s act of touching the killer and stating, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!”, can be described as an act to save herself rather than that of chastity (O’Connor 529). The writer usually uses the excuse of the moment of grace in her book in a move to save it from violence and bloodshed. Metaphor is the form of speech used by the writer to show her evil deeds in the story, for example the use of a cat nap to describe the cause of the car wreck. Bonney proves this by stating that, “taking cat naps” herself, she succeeds only in causing a car wreck, when the cat, uncontrolled, “with a snarl” leaps upon the driver and precipitates the victimization of everyone in the family by the Misfit, who talks with a “snarl” and moralistically complains that Christ “thrown everything off balance” by requiring that one “throw away everything and follow Him,” even as he murders an old woman and directs his companions to “throw her where you throw the others”(Bonney 347). The Misfit shows no remorse for his actions.
The grandmother keeps telling The Misfit that he is a good man throughout the narrative to try to save herself from being killed. The grandmother is described by Bonney as, “self-righteously superior, she therefore can justify all of her own behavior, whether it involves bribing her granddaughter, inciting her grandchildren to riotous defiance of their father, craftily, not telling the truth” (Bonney 347). The grandmother refers to the killer as a good man who comes from great people. The Misfit is good looking and he comes from a perfect family. He came from a good family as he states that “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold” (O’Connor 525). He says that the police only have one criminal record on him, but he was a cold blood murderer. Despite him being pale, defenselessness-looking or rimmed, he killed the grandmother.
The unjustified use of the label “good man” by the grandmother reveals that “good” does not necessarily translate to what is kind or moral. She does not even judge characters before labeling them as “good” but rather he uses the word indiscriminately as long as it suits her needs. The grandmother tells the Misfit “I just know you’re a good man” (Bonney 302). At this point, the Misfit is sure that he is not a good man even though that is label the grandmother is using on him. The grandmother labels the Misfit as a good man because she assumes that he would not shoot a lady. As long as she can relate to the actions of those around her, then she safely assumes that the actions of such people qualify them to be good. This expands her selfish ambitions to pursue actions that only align to her moral code. Unfortunately, her assumption proves to be false when the Misfit decides to kill her instead of saving her life as she had pleaded. At this point, it is evident that the only good thing about the Misfit is his consistency in pursuing his moral code of “no pleasure but meanness” (O’Connor 524). The quote justifies his actions whereby he kills people and even destroy property because he has nothing else to do because he has lost the desire for gain. The Misfit does not also belief in either right or wrong.
Hence, one’s look cannot define their personal identity. Just like The Misfit who was good looking and pale, but later emerged to be a killer. It’s clear that one cannot identify a criminal/killer by the way they look or how they talks. It doesn’t matter if the individual comes from a good or bad family. Therefore, despite The Misfit looking like a good man, it is clear that he was a cold blood killer.
Bonney, William. “The Moral Structure of Flannery O’Connor’s” A Good Man Is Hard to Find”.” Studies in short fiction 27.3 (1990): 347.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”. Back to the Lake: A Reader and Guide, edited by Thomas Cooley, 3rd ed., W.W. Norton, 2017, pp. 517-530.